SANDY — In keeping with a new U.S. Department of Agriculture requirement, the Canyons Board of Education's new policy on school lunch debt ensures children are kept out of the loop in conversations about owed money, even high schoolers.
The school board passed the policy late Tuesday night.
The board's policy was developed to comply with the USDA mandate that all schools across the country have policies in place by July 1 that state how they will handle situations where students do not have money in their lunch accounts or cash on hand to pay for meals.
The USDA, as overseer of federally supported school nutrition programs, is attempting to address reports of shaming of students whose parents owe money to schools for school lunches or breakfasts.
Nearly half of the nation's school districts have shamed students to compel their parents to pay overdue school lunch bills. That has included throwing away students' meals, providing less desirable options such milk, a piece of fruit or bread, or stamping students' hands to remind parents the account is in arrears.
The policy approved by the Canyons Board of Education largely reflects existing practices of the district.
In Canyons District, schools do not withhold meals from students whose accounts are in arrears, nor are they offered a lesser food option. Children in grades K-8 are served a full meal regardless of their debt, said district spokesman Jeff Haney.
An earlier version contemplated serving high schoolers meals until their accounts reached $10 debt. Then students would be pulled aside and informed they cannot charge meals once the debt exceeds $10.
Over concerns that high school students won't tell their parents that they owe money to the school, the updated policy will mirror the practice in grades K-8. They will be served full meals regardless of money owed, and school officials will contact parents instead of discussing the debt with students.
"No student should be contacted about a delinquent account," said school district attorney Jeff Christensen.
Parents whose children's accounts are in arrears will be notified by phone, email or possibly by mail.
Delinquent families could be sent to collections to collect debt at the end of the school years.
"We are not going to send anybody for just a couple dollars," said Leon Wilcox, district business administrator.