Crime and Punishment

Detroit school’s lunch ban punishes students with hunger.

In one Detroit school, if your classmates have a food fight, you lose your lunch for a week. That was the case at McLeod Bethune Elementary-Middle School, a part of the Educational Achievement Authority of Michigan, a district created to help low-performing schools boost academic standing. When 175 students were involved in a food fight last week, the school’s administration decided the punishment would be to suspend foodservice for a week.

I have a hard time believing this was the best solution to the food-fight problem. First, students were encouraged to bring food from home, so ammo was still at the students’ disposal should they wish to hold another fight. Second, I’m assuming most students in this school qualify for free or reduced-priced meals. (The district offers meals for free to all students, regardless of payment status.) By taking away a school-provided lunch, the district is punishing students, who most likely rely on the free meal, with hunger.

A hunger punishment is never OK.

Then there are those students who had parents bring them fast food for lunch. That’s another lesson that doesn’t need re-enforcement in our schools.

And what about the loss of foodservice revenue for that week? And was the foodservice staff at that school told not to come into work for the week? That’s placing a hardship on those workers in a city with a high unemployment rate.

Apparently, the school’s administration came to the realization that the school-lunch ban wasn’t a good idea. They rescinded the order after two days sans lunch.

Do the students deserve a punishment? Of course. But in a time when it’s hard to get kids to eat healthfully and also combat hunger, it’s unfathomable to me why this school felt cutting a nutritious meal was the best answer.

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