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Greenwood kindergartner ‘lunch shamed,’ family calls for school policy change

GREENWOOD, Ind. (WISH) — The grandfather of a Greenwood kindergartner who said she was “lunch shamed” Friday at Southwest Elementary School urged district administrators to review their cafeteria policies.

Anya Howard, 6, was instructed to return her tray of hot food after a cafeteria aide discovered she didn’t have enough money in her student account to pay for the $2.25 meal.

The Southwest Elementary student was told to return to the back of the lunch line to wait for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, she said, adding several classmates laughed at her and made her feel “sad.”

She had to walk past approximately 20 students — including some who commented on her payment issues — to reach the back of the line, she told News 8.

Her grandfather, Dwight Howard, said he felt the “cafeteria walk of shame” was unnecessary and humiliating.

“When she was talking to me about it, she was more than ‘sad,’” he said. “I mean, that’s embarrassing for a little 6-year-old.”

Anya’s cafeteria credit had dipped to $0.10, according to a note from the school dated Friday. Her grandfather provided a copy to News 8 and said the school hadn’t previously alerted their family of her account status.

“They waited until there was a dime left, denied her the opportunity to eat the lunch that she had [been served and tried to pay for] and then she had to go to the end of the line to wait for a PB&J,” Dwight said.

Parents are issued payment reminders when lunch accounts have $5 remaining, according to Dr. Kent DeKoninck, the Greenwood Community Schools superintendent.

“It is not an uncommon occurrence for multiple students to be served the alternate lunch on any given day,” he said Monday in an emailed statement to News 8. “Any time this happens, our staff looks to handle all of these as discreetly as possible… We do allow elementary students to charge two hot meals before receiving the alternate meal.”

However, a half-page note stapled to the back of the payment reminder Anya brought home from school Friday afternoon said Southwest Elementary would no longer allow students to charge any meals.

“Starting Monday 5/13/2019 we are no longer allowing any Café accounts to go into the negative,” the note reads. “If there is not enough money in your child’s account to cover the entire meal, they will be receiving a peanut butter sandwich and a milk.”

DeKoninck said administrators had not been contacted directly by Anya Howard’s family and declined to comment on specifics of their complaints.

The Southwest Elementary principal and cafeteria manager did not immediately respond to calls and emails from News 8 requesting comment.