After a fair amount of discussion, the Alcorn County School District Board of Education approved a three-stage policy which would aid in the process of collecting delinquent lunch charges which stood at $1,092 district-wide at the time of the board meeting Monday night, according to a district staff member present at the meeting.
The discussion began with board member Ricky Fields, who wanted further discussion specifically regarding the third stage of the process which would entail the name of parents being included in the school board’s meeting agenda and brought before school board. Fields said he felt embarrassment would come back on the child.
Alcorn County School Superintendent Larry B. Mitchell said some districts penalize the student and not the parents due to delinquent charges. He said he did not want that to happen, but stated the process needed to have some “teeth behind it.” He said the parents are called and encouraged to fill out lunch forms. If the payment is delinquent, then the parents are encouraged to reapply in case they need further assistance.
“We have called and some of them don’t even return our calls. We’ve done everything we know how to do ... The USDA will not let us mark off charges,” Mitchell said.
Board member Ann Little said she shared Fields’ concern with the third step. She said she also worried it might “embarrass the child.”
“We need to know if the family is struggling and cannot pay or if they are simply choosing not to pay. I feel this needs to be a case by case situation,” said Fields. “I understand it’s the parents and not the child, but I am afraid it will somehow lead back to the child.”
To the concerns of Fields and Little, it was pointed out that emails are already sent out to parents when the delinquent charges reach $10, according to a district staff member. The same staff member also said that, in the case of high school students, the parents are sending the lunch money, but the student is using the money elsewhere.
It was also said that parents can fill out free or reduced lunch forms until the day before the last day of school. It would be retroactive toward the unpaid charges. According to district staff, parents would be notified of the policy and the three stages, but also advised of any assistance available if they have trouble paying the lunch fees.
After discussion, it was generally agreed a policy was needed and the motion to accept the delinquent lunch charge policy was approved with one opposition vote.