Move to collect school lunch debt stirs controversy - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Move to collect school lunch debt stirs controversy

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For some kids in our region the meals they eat at school are the only nutritious food they get all day.

That is especially true in parts of the state where people are suffering from layoffs and a tough job climate.

But some parents in Boone County say their kids are being punished for something that isn't their fault.

Michael Kirk said he couldn't believe his ears when he asked his daughter how her day went at school Friday.

"She said at lunch time some kids had to collect money for the other kids to eat," Kirk said.

Several kids went home that day saying they or their friends had been singled out and embarrassed in the cafeteria because their parents were delinquent on their lunch bills.

It is a claim the Assistant Superintendent for Boone County Schools, Jeff Huffman does not completely deny.

"The principal had asked those students to go down to the office to call their parents and remind them that they had an outstanding lunch bill and to ask them to please come in to bring those current," Huffman said.

Parent Robert White, who is currently unemployed, posted a picture of his children's school lunch bill on his Facebook page. He wanted people to know that his kids were called to the office because he was less than $10 behind on their bill.

"I got a phone call on Friday saying my kids would not be able to eat unless I came down to pay the lunch bill," White said.

But Huffman said that is not true. He said children were told after they called their parents they could return to the cafeteria to eat.

"We would never punish a child because their parents hadn't paid a lunch bill," Huffman said.

However parents say what happened at the school Friday was out of line.

"They singled out the kids that had an outstanding lunch bill and just embarrassed them in front of all their friends and their peers," White said.

County school leaders report that there is over $100,000 in school lunch debt that has accumulated over the last two years from unpaid school lunch bills. Some bills are over three years delinquent. Huffman says in some cases collection agencies are contacted to help recoup the money.

Parents and community members are planning a peaceful protest for Wednesday morning. They haven't decided on a location.

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