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Empty school cafeteria

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Last week Philando Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, donated $8,000 to a Minnesota school on behalf of the foundation named in honor of her son. The effort was made to help over 300 seniors after they were told they would not be allowed to participate in their graduation ceremony because of unpaid lunch debts.

Across the country the issue of income inequality continues to show up in new and damaging ways. A recent news report about a Rhode Island school district shows the lengths that educators will go to in order to “other” low-income students.

On Sunday Warwick Public Schools announced via its official Facebook page that schools would serve cold sandwiches to students until their lunch balances are paid in full or until an approved payment plan is made.

The action has caused a spirited response from community members, split between those who say the increasing debt is a burden to taxpayers and those who believe the action is an overreach.

“I know as parents this is our responsibility but why take it out on kids if parents are struggling???” Facebook user Jennie Holmes wrote. “The same thing every day is not the greatest way to show children that their parents may need help financially!!!”

The school district, which is located 12 miles south of the state capitol of Providence, has accumulated $27,000 in lunch debt, according to a report by WPRI.

In response, Angelica Penta, a local business owner offered to settle $4,000 worth of the debt, but was refused by school officials who said the action would single out students.

WPRI obtained a statement from the school district, which said “it was not in the position to single out or identify specific students that should be selected for a reduction in their lunch debt while excluding others.”

But Penta is upset and thinks the school district is doing more damage than harm.

“There is no need for any child to be denied a hot lunch,” Penta wrote in a Facebook post. “We never know a child’s or their families situation, everyone struggles at some point.”

Interesting that the school is worried about who would feel marginalized when serving peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to those same students instead of the approved food for the day will do just that.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to serve the students and has received over $11,000 on its goal to reach $77,000.

These actions not only place irreparable harm on the students but set up feelings of inadequacy and resentment over a basic necessity that now comes at a steep price.

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