I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Kindergarten Students SHOULD NOT be Treated Like This!

"Can you imagine this?" the voice was crackling with rage.  This veteran teacher was angry.  "This is wrong, and something better be done about this or I will go to the media--I've never seen anything like this in 20 years teaching!"

From a reliable source that does not want to be named--this is what happened in one of our (non-universal free-lunch)elementary schools today

It all started when four kindergartners forgot their lunch money--or their parents forgot to give them the money.  When these youngsters reached the cashier with their trays in hand, one by one their lunches were taken from them and dumped in the trash can right in front of them because they did not have their lunch money.

Instead of their normal lunch, each was given two slices of white bread, a slice of american cheese, and a cup of water.

These are kindergartners--not savvy high schoolers trying to get over on the system.

Saddened, traumatized, these 5 year old children began to cry.

One adult present checked and confirmed that two of the four children were, indeed, eligible for free lunch.  So they were given a new plate of food (although the previous tray of food was wasted, thrown into the trash according to this witness).

The other two, were left with the cheese sandwich.

One teacher offered to go get money from her classroom to pay for one student, and the cashier held

up the line until that teacher came back and paid.

The fourth student ate the cheese sandwich, and another teacher bought him an orange and a milk.

I get it that we have to collect for our food, but for Kindergartners do we really have to drop the hammer like a mob collection squad??!!  I say hell no.  And I cannot imagine the heartlessness required to take a kid's lunch and dump it out in front of him.   That is borderline bullying behavior so far as I'm concerned.

I'm going to dig into this situation and find a resolution with a better policy;  We need to have an extended grace period for these young students who are caught in the middle and just want to have a hot meal with their friends and classmates--instead of being humiliated and demeaned like this.

I'm going to make it my mission to fix this horrible practice with a smart policy that addresses this issue in a more sane, humane, and rational way.


Anonymous said...

Why get sane, humane and rational now? We are talking about ECSD, after all. Let the little institutionalized brats ALL wear their orange vests and have bread and water! Kids are meant to be seen and not heard. They're not there to eat, they're there to learn! It's up to the PARENTS to feed them a gourmet breakfast before they go to school and dinner after school. IT STARTS AT HOME! Nobody gave ME a handout when I walked 5 miles to school in 1960! If it aint broke don't fix it! Why innovate or think rationally? Handouts! The system! Rabble rabble.

Jeff Bergosh said...

I disagree anonymous, but the good news is that when I spoke with district administration about this, the incident was looked at and the process that led to this unfortunate incident will be looked at going forward so as not to have a repeat of this.

Anonymous said...

Well Mr Bergosh do you also know they do give the children a $6.00 grace to charge on their account before they no longer give them their free food. So these poor little kids didn't just forget their money this one day. Maybe instead of going after these hard workers that are only doing their job and following the rules your county put into place you could try to figure out a way to make the parents pay or better yet give the county your debit number and you can start paying for all of these kids with forgetful parents.

Jeff Bergosh said...

Anonymous--this isn't about hard working employees "just following rules." This is being mean and cruel to 5 year olds and I won't stand for it. A better policy must be put into place. We cannot on the one hand say we give EVERY student at 30 schools FREE breakfast and lunch, yet at this elementary school (which by the way IS a TITLE I School) if a brand new Kindergarten student, 5 years old, does not have money for lunch (FOR WHATEVER REASON) we let him get all the way to the check-out cashier and then we take his hot lunch and throw it in the trash in front of him and give him bread and water. That is absolutely ridiculous and I will bring a better, more sane and rational plan. I understand that perhaps this cashier was just "following the rules" but in this instance the rule is badly flawed and I cannot for the life of me rationalize taking this action against a five year old in front of his classmates and hurting him to the point that he is crying because he is hungry and embarrassed. I do not think for 5 year olds it is acceptable to punish them for the parents' failings or oversight with not filling out a form. We are a wealthy, giving nation and our foodservice enterprise makes a profit. makes a profit. I don't want to make a profit utilizing kindergartners as a collection lever to punish parents, and I won't. I'll bring a school board policy to fix this abominable practice, to end it.

Anonymous said...

First off, I will say that I do feel sorry for the children. However, the cafeteria workers have strict policies that they must enforce. I know the first week they allowed a few charges to the student accounts. Perhaps these students had charged all week. They are not allowed to go over a certain amount of charges. And yes, the workers are accountable for this. I also am unsure of why the teacher let the child pick up a lunch before giving his student number to the worker. If she had waited the worker would have informed her that the child was not able to buy a lunch. (PS My kids love cheese sandwiches and mostly drink water--so this would not be a big deal for them!)

I think that your problem should be with the policies that are set in place and not with the worker doing her job. I don't agree with perfectly good food being thrown away, but if that is the POLICY that they HAVE to follow or lose their job....I don't think calling them bullies is quite fair without knowing ALL of the facts of this instance. Personally I don't understand why only 30 schools are free lunch schools and the rest of the Title I schools are not. But, that's just my opinion!