New Mexico Becomes First State to End School ‘Lunch Shaming’

Bullying from one’s peers is bad enough, but when it comes from adults at school, the damage can be especially devastating. And in an emerging and unsettling trend, schools across the nation are shaming students who are unable to afford their cafeteria lunches.

In one case that gained national attention, a third grader in Alabama was sent home with an ink message stamped on his arm that read, “I need lunch money.” The student’s father was both stunned and confused after finding the stamp on his son, calling it a “form of bullying and shaming.” Prior to this incident, the school would call or email parents to alert them of a low lunch payment balance, so the father was understandably baffled.

And shockingly, this happens to be one of the milder instances of shaming a young student over lunch money. Some schools have forced students to work off their unpaid lunches by washing cafeteria tables during school hours. In other cases, cafeteria workers took away students’ food.

Perhaps the most shocking account of lunch money bullying occurred at a middle school in Virginia. In this particularly strange case, a student who took a carton of milk — one that he was entitled to — was accused of theft and actually handcuffed by the school’s security officer in front of his peers.

Fortunately, some states are taking important steps to put such lunch shaming to an end.

New Mexico recently became the first state to legally prohibit these policies. With Governor Susana Martinez’ recent signature, the Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights will require schools to communicate with parents or in the situations that warrant it, enroll students in assistance programs. This legislation will include any school that receives government aid for student meals, whether public or private.

Does this mean schools should stop trying to make parents pay off their children’s meal debts? Of course not. However, there’s no need to humiliate young individuals. After all, students are not at fault for coming up short. Children do not choose to live in difficult financial circumstances, and it is cruel to treat them as if they did. Shaming children and their low-income families is absurd and arguably Dickensian.

Hopefully New Mexico’s new law will encourage other states to follow suit. Both Texas and California are currently working on similar bills that would also do away with humiliating cafeteria policies.

Photo Credit: USDA/Flickr


Carl R
Carl R10 months ago


Philippa P
Philippa Powers10 months ago

Good on New Mexico! No child should be shamed because their parents are poor.

FOTEINI c11 months ago

thank you so much! all friends from New Mexico would be thrilled! VICTORY!:)

Jess B
Jess B11 months ago


Carl R
Carl R11 months ago


Julie P
Julie Pham11 months ago


Margie F
Margie FOURIE11 months ago

Thank you

Twila H
Twila H11 months ago

Thanks for the info!

Misbah Malik
Misbah Malik11 months ago

Why ?

Patricia Harris
Patricia Harris11 months ago

Past Member, not unless we get rid of him, first! I refuse to allow things to worsen than it already has over the years. Trump may be our new ''President''as he calls himself, but he can't take away what's most important to us. I will not rest until I see Trash Trump on his hands and knees with his tail between his legs. There's nothing I want more than to making this man-child pay for all his wrong-doings. I hunger for justice and yearn for peace, and I won't rest until I have achieved that goal. I know I shouldn't feel this way, but I really detest Donald Trump with a passion, a burning passion that has the intensity of 1000 suns... I will never let him have his way, even if it costs me my own life.