(TMU) — Cherry Hill Public Schools in New Jersey recently made a controversial decision to ban students from prom and field trips over unpaid lunch bills. School officials said that over 340 students owed a collective total of $14,343, which has put a serious strain on the district’s finances.
Initially, the school district proposed that students who owed more than $10 in lunch debt would not be able to get a hot meal, but instead, would only have access to a tuna sandwich. However, they quickly replaced that policy with one that would ban students from activities if they were deep enough in debt to their school.
The outrageous policies have made headlines all over the world, but school officials do not appear to be backing down. Steve Ravitz, a local good samaritan from Philadelphia, heard about the situation on the news and offered to pay off the debts so students wouldn’t be singled out because of their financial situation. However, his offer to pay off the debts was rejected by the school, leading many to believe the district is intent on punishing the children.
Cherry Hill School District Superintendent Joseph Meloche suggested that many of these families actually do have the means to pay the lunch debts, but are just choosing not to.
“Simply erasing the debt does not address the many families with financial means who have just chosen not to pay what is owed,” Meloche and Cherry Hill School Board President Eric Goodwin said in a joint statement, according to Philly Voice.
The current policy at the school will impose a mandatory meeting between parents and school officials once a debt of $75 has accumulated. At that point, the student will be unable to participate in most school activities.
A similar case happened recently with the Wyoming Valley West School District in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, which also imposed penalties on children over lunch debts. In that case CEO of LaColombe Coffee, Todd Carmichael, offered to pay off the debts and was also denied at first, but his offer was eventually accepted after the school received enough complaints.
Carmichael wrote a check for $22,467 to absolve the debts of the children in the district. Carmichael said that because he had to rely on free lunches when he grew up, he could relate to the children who were unable to cover their debts.
A school district in New Jersey is trying to make sure that students with lunch debt pay their tab.
Posted by Boston 25 News on Tuesday, October 22, 2019