A Capehart Scatchard Blog

Lunch Debt Debacle – Part II

By on September 6, 2019 in Students with 0 Comments

By: Lauren E. Tedesco, Esq.
Editor: Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev, Esq.

Strengthening policies and procedures for outstanding lunch debt is one of the most important steps a school district can take in order to minimize the overall outstanding debt. 

In addition to the statutory notice provisions to parents/guardians discussed in Part I of this article series, school districts should also ensure that parents/guardians are aware of the National School Lunch Program, which provides a free or reduced price lunch to children from households meeting criteria for eligibility.  Free/Reduced Lunch applications can be provided to parents/guardians and submitted at any time during the school year.  These applications take into account whether the financial circumstances of the family have changed to warrant a free or discounted meal rate.   

After providing written notice to parents/guardians and if the parents/guardians still have not made payment on the debt, I recommend school officials request a meeting with the parents/guardians to resolve the matter.  At this meeting, payment of the debt in full or potential payment plans can be discussed and hopefully agreed upon.  

If the parents/guardians refuse to meet with school officials or the matter is unable to be resolved, school district officials can consult with the school district social worker regarding possible referral to the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, Division of Child Protection and Permanency.

It is also recommended for schools to create a folder for each individual student which can include: all correspondence and attempts to contact parents/guardians; payment plan details (if applicable); a copy of the Free/Reduced Lunch application; Food Service records, etc.

With respect to alternate meals for students whose accounts are in arrears, as explained in Part I, this practice is lawful and appropriate.  No student is being denied a meal and the school district is minimizing further debt.  If school districts feel that there is in fact stigmatization with respect to the alternate meal, they can decide whether to provide the regular meal to students whose accounts are in arrears. If they choose this option, school officials should continue to keep a detailed accounting of the meals and amounts charged while following through with all of the procedures for notice and attempts to recoup the debt as set forth above.

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Lauren E. Tedesco

About the Author

About the Author:

Lauren E. Tedesco, Esq. focuses her practice in the representation of public and private sector employers in the areas of labor and employment, school law (including special education) and civil rights law matters. Ms. Tedesco is admitted to practice in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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