A school in Colorado was caught stamping the hands of students who received free lunches or could not afford meals. When former Principal Noelle Roni spoke out about the policy, she was terminated after nine years of dedicated service.
Last year, Noelle Roni discovered that students attending Peak to Peak Charter School were humiliated for their inability to purchase school lunch or qualifying for free meals. As explained by one grandparent, her grandchild was publicly shamed by having his hand stamped and given cheese bread instead of pizza like the rest of his peers were, thereby deterring him from eating hot meals provided by the school.
Hoping to spare the students from this ordeal, Roni discussed the matter with cafeteria workers, requesting that they stop the systematic demoralization of the children. However, she turned to additional school officials, including the food services manager, when the cafeteria workers did not oblige. She subsequently received a letter for “unprofessional conduct” and was asked to resign quietly. Despite the offer to receive the rest of the year’s pay, she turned down the buyout offer in order to publicly speak about the events that transpired and the shaming occurring in the school. “I believe that I was retaliated against for standing up for children’s rights and against activities that stigmatized children,” she said.
The school’s board of directors hasn’t addressed the hand stamping allegations but said in a state, “Peak to Peak does not condone or tolerate unlawful retaliation.”
Shaming students for their inability to buy school meals in not a new phenomenon. Late last year, Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA) voiced his opposition to providing free meals for kids, arguing that students should “maybe sweep the floor in the cafeteria” in return for food.
According to No Kid Hungry’s annual educator survey, 75 percent of students attend school hungry, a problem that severely impacts learning and impairs mental health. As of February last year, only 11 million of 21 million students eligible for free or reduced-price meals were receiving them. Nevertheless, while the problem of food insecurity in schools in widespread, there have been positive developments in major school districts. For instance, every student enrolled in the Dallas Independent School District or Boston Public Schools is served free meals, regardless of income.