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'Am I overreacting to how the school punished my son for putting lunch food in his locker?' UPDATED

'Am I overreacting to how the school punished my son for putting lunch food in his locker?' UPDATED

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In a perfect world, schools would be places focused on fostering learning and curiosity in kids, rather than policing them. Sadly, that's not the case in many schools.

"Am I overreacting to how the school punished my son?"

On Thursday I got a phone call from my son telling me he had detention and wasn’t going to be on the bus. He usually has a cell phone but I haven't been able to afford a card for it but he knew I’d get worried. When I asked why he had detention the phone was hung up. I thought if a student was going to be held the school would notify the parent but I guess not.

My son is a really good kid who never had any issues so I went to the school. He was taking food from his lunch to save for later. Lunch is free but if a student wants a second one they have to buy a second tray. The rules are that food/drink can’t be taken to class. He said he wasn’t trying to sneak food for class, he was taking it straight to his locker to save for after school.

The lunch monitor caught him a few times and started making him flip his pockets inside out. Embarrassing him in front of the entire lunchroom. Instead of letting him just eat what he was trying to save quickly she would make him throw it away, perfectly good food. On Thursday she stopped him again and said he was “trying to be slick” and was “scurrying like a raccoon to his locker.”

He showed her his pockets but that wasn’t enough. She tried to pat him down to check. He refused so he was given after school detention for “insubordination” and was made to apologize to the lunch monitor. When asked why he kept trying to get away with it he shrugged and just said “I just wanted a snack for the bus, I’m always hungry.”

Every student goes to their locker after lunch because they aren't allowed to bring their binders/bookbags into the lunchroom. On Friday, I went back to the school to talk with the principal because I didn’t think what he did was enough to deserve detention. He is a straight A student. I was basically told the rules are rules, no exceptions. I’m still so upset.

When I asked him why he didn’t just take a snack from home he said it wouldn’t be fair to his siblings and me if he took an extra snack. We don’t have snacks all the time unless the food bank gives us some. Food insecurity sucks and my son is experiencing it and getting punished for it. I know I’m a POS mom because most of our meals are beans and rice and nothing he could really even take to school.

I'm ashamed to admit we all don't eat enough at home but school lunch is free food, he should be able to enjoy it all.

Am I overreacting? She was acting like he was robbing a bank or something. Plus no one should ever try touching a child, period.

Commenters had a lot to say in response.

Trisamitops wrote:

The hall monitor does not have the authority to do a pat down search on students and could probably get fired if there was a witness.

242vuu responded:

I don't believe they are allowed to touch the student like that, unless is exigent circumstance.

"You've made it clear that my son will have detention for taking food out of the lunchroom. Fair enough."

"I have addressed that with him. If you'd like details of our struggles with food stability I can fill you in. If you'd like to hear about how my son takes part of his lunch for a snack on the bus so his siblings can have a snack at home because I can't really afford them, I can fill you in. But I understand completely, rules are rules."

"That being said, can you explain to me why a hall monitor put their hands on my son without a parent present? He was successfully embarrassed by this person by turning out his pockets. However, this individual decided to pat my son down. I do not believe you are legally allowed to put your hands on my son unless he is a danger to himself or others."

"Were any other staff present for this pat down or was my son isolated, alone, and with an adult touching him without his consent? Is this a common practice for this staff member? I look forward to an in-depth review of your policies regarding inappropriate contact between staff and students." Say it without emotion.

rainingcatsnstuff wrote:

Grades don't necessarily correlate to behavior. I do find it worrying though that the lunch aid publicly humiliated your son, and attempted to touch him. As well as you not being informed that they were keeping him. I also don't think he did anything wrong. What's wrong with leftovers? Why does that equal detention?

OP responded:

Detention for "insubordination" because he told the lunch monitor no. Nothing is wrong with leftovers but we never have enough.

Teresa3llen wrote:

My high school has students who don’t eat their apples or drink their milk, put it in a share box that anyone can take from. It doesn’t go to waste and kids can eat extra.

BSBS8823 wrote:

You're not overreacting. You're son being hungry and getting food is more important than their stupid f#$king rule. And definitely tell the school they are no longer allowed to frisk him. They don't get to touch him when they want just because of food. He's not dangerous.

OP responded:

He was treated like he was r*bbing a bank or something. Gatekeeping food from a kid is infuriating. He wasn't trying to steal a second lunch.

InevitableRhubarb232 wrote:

What do kids who bring their own lunches do if they don’t eat it all? Do they have to throw it away? Do they check everyone’s lunch boxes? Are they not allowed to have food in their lockers?

OP responded:

Each student picks either a sack lunch or a hot lunch. I'm guessing they do this so a kid doesn't get a second lunch without paying? If he brought a sack lunch he would have a lunchbox and leftover food is ok if it's in a lunch box. It doesn't make sense to me.

Flaky_Perception6977 wrote:

Not overreacting. I'm sorry you and your family are experiencing food insecurity. It sounds like you're doing the best you can to provide for your kids. Plus raising a kid who considers how taking an extra snack for himself would impact the others.

It makes sense that he should be able to keep the leftovers from his free lunch for later. If the school has any idea of your situation (which I get they might not), idk how they can hear him say "I just wanted a snack for the bus, I'm always hungry" and not see how they could help simply by letting him keep extra food from his meal.

OP responded:

"If the school has any idea of your situation (which I get they might not)."

When I asked the school for any resources besides our town food bank he was given a "to go" bag on the weekend with some food but it was only two times before he was told he couldn't get it anymore.

I'm frustrated and so upset because he never told me how hungry he has been. He is old enough to know we are struggling. The lunch monitor making him throw away perfectly good food has me in literal tears.

PukeJesus420 wrote:

The fact that they tried to pat him down is f#$king outrageous. He is a child! No adult should be touching him without his consent in any way.

Sorry if this is too personal, but if yall are not white, I would call that f#$king r@cism too.

OP responded:

The raccoon comment was 100% racist. I went in on Friday and wanted to talk to the lunch monitor but she refused saying I should focus on "feeding my kid so he isn't being sneaky."

A week later, OP shared an update.

I went to the school on Monday and was told I had to make a meeting to talk to the principal again. I was told yesterday that students can either choose hot lunch or bring lunch from home but can’t do both. If he brings a lunch from home he can save whatever he doesn’t eat in his lunchbox. He can’t bring an empty lunch bag from home to hold whatever he wants to save from his hot lunch.

He told his principal that if he eats too fast he gets sick and that is why he tries to save half of his lunch. The principal said he would need a doctor's note to be able to save his food. I can barely feed my kids right now, I can’t afford an unnecessary copay.

I’d love to send him with a sack lunch so he can eat at his own pace but extra groceries are not in my budget, I’m barely making it as is. I’m going to try and speak to someone at our local news station because calling the district is going nowhere.

Commenters had a lot to say in response.

Charizaxis wrote:

It's amazing to me how schools of all places are somehow so hellbent on making kids suffer. When I was in high school, we weren't allowed to take food out of the lunch room unless we went outside to eat. This became a problem because the lunch room was designed for 300 kids, but the school was trying to get close to 500 kids through for each lunch.

Not enough seats meant that kids had to sit outside on the ground, or stand inside if it was too cold. There was a para there who would yell at you to sit down, even if there weren't enough seats. It was as bad as it sounds.

OP responded:

"There was a para there who would yell at you to sit down, even if there weren't enough seats. It was as bad as it sounds."

How frustrating! Lets stress kids out and ruin their relationship with food early.

DistortedVoltage wrote:

Your school board should have meetings every now and then. Please look up their meeting schedules. Document every incident where this has happened to your son and bring this up to them at that meeting in front of all the other parents and on the cameras where everyone can watch this meeting and hear exactly what is going on at this school.

Which can then be brought up to your local news station in order to get more publicity on it. I'm a lunch lady, and free meals are a thing here for all kids. Even if they have at home food, they can come in line to get any sides. As long as a food isn't a hot or cold item and needs its temp kept for food safety, then the kids are allowed to do whatever with their food. Taking it away, is especially a huge no-no.

CuriousCuriosity000 wrote:

This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard, with all the the problems that the school system has this is what they are going to harp on?? Searching, har*ssing and trying to pat down children for food?? Sounds like the school is going to be unreasonable period. Perhaps you could pick up a few things from a food bank near you for snacks for your son to sneak in his backpack or locker.

PuzzledUpstairs8189 wrote:

Literally when I was in high school 20 years ago we had a rule that you couldn’t wear flip flops or sandals without a strap around the back. I had sandals that looked like flip flops in the front, but a strap that went around the back. They did not break dress code. I was sitting at my lunch table and my principal came up to investigate my shoes because a teacher couldn’t tell if they were appropriate.

The back of my jeans covered my heal and the back strap. I lifted my pant leg and just looked at him. That was 5 minutes of an adults day for it to be noted, called to the principal’s office, and then investigated by the freaking principal. They had nothing better to do.

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