- A Rhode Island school district faced accusations of lunch shaming after it announced that students with unpaid lunch bills would only be served sunflower butter and jelly sandwiches.
- The outrage increased when parents learned that the district had also refused a $4,000 donation from a local community member to help with the debt, over concerns of how to fairly distribute the funds.
- The district later reversed the policy and said it will work with its legal team to ensure that donations are accepted and applied in an equitable manner.
New Policy Announced
A Rhode Island School District has reversed its policy of only serving students with lunch debt sunflower butter and jelly sandwiches after it was slammed with accusations of lunch shaming.
Warwick Public Schools announced original policy change on their Facebook page Sunday, saying: “Effective Monday, May 13, 2019, if money is owed on a paid, free, or reduced lunch account a sun butter and jelly sandwich will be given as the lunch choice until the balance owed is paid in full or a payment plan is set up through the food service office.
The post was met with a ton of backlash from angry parents calling the policy “terrible” and “shameful.” In some responses, parents said they had been mailed letters notifying them of unpaid balances of just a few cents.
One parent wrote, “Just give the kids lunch. We already lost a janitor, science teacher, dont have air conditioning, we cant spring for a chicken patty for a hungry kid? What if this is their only meal of the day?”
Some commenters blamed the parents for not better managing their expenses. Meanwhile, others tried to understand the school’s position. “We need to look at both sides of this!” another user wrote.
“While it is inappropriate to embarrass a child over their parent’s failings — there’s also the argument that if we provide free lunches with no accountability, many parents will purposely choose not to bother paying at all.”
Rhode Island school are required to provide lunches to students under state law and those meals must also meet minimum federal nutrition standards. Low-income families can qualify for free or discounted lunches for their children. According to the state Department of Education, about 69 percent of school lunches are already served at a free or reduced price.
The debate over the new school policy got escalated once parents learned that the school had also turned down a large donation from a community member.
According to CNN, West Warwick business owner Angelica Penta tried to make a $4,000 donation to Warwick Public Schools to help pay off lunch debts. However, Penta says her donation was refused.
Penta set up donation jars at her two area diners in March of last year and has already raised over $12,000.
“I gave $4000 to West Warwick Schools on January 8th, and then I tried to give additional money to Warwick Schools, but they denied the check,” Penta told CNN.
Penta spoke to the Director of Finances for Warwick Public schools to ask why the donation was turned down. She said she was told that the school was concerned about parents being upset that their balance was paid and concerned about how to distribute the donation.
The district has since defended itself against criticism for refusing the funds. “The business owner has maintained a position that they want to make a single, large donation to the district while leaving the student selection process to the school department,” Warwick Public Schools told WPRI in a statement.
“This is a position that the school department cannot support given the school’s mission to treat all children equitably.”
By Wednesday the school posted a follow-up message on Facebook, addressing the backlash that had accrued over the week. In it, they said that 1653 Warwick students have a balance on their lunch accounts as of Friday, May 3. The balances rage from anywhere between $10 to over $500. In total, the district says the outstanding lunch debt currently sits at $77,000.
The district explained that the majority of the lunch debt comes from paying students, not students who are enrolled in the free/reduced lunch program. All students are able to purchase lunches or à la carte items and charge them to their account, even if the accounts have no money in them. However, if debts are not paid after repeated notices to guardians, then students are given the sandwich option.
“Please understand that no students are left without a meal under our current policy,” the district wrote. “Once the student’s access to à la carte items has been shut off, students are provided with a balanced lunch of a sunbutter and jelly sandwich (which is also a daily choice on the school lunch menu), vegetables, fruit, and milk.”
“However, after careful review and consideration the policy subcommittee is recommending that the Warwick School Committee allow the students their choice of lunch regardless of their account status.”
The school added that it is grateful for donations and will “work with our attorneys to ensure that we accept donations in compliance with the law and that the donations are applied in an equitable manner.”
“Lunch shaming” is a term used to describe efforts to hold parents accountable for their schoolchildren’s unpaid lunch bills that may spark embarrassment or bullying. It’s a huge problem in public schools across the country.
“This is bigger than Warwick,” Diane Pratt-Heavner, a spokeswoman for the School Nutrition Association told the New York Times. “Public schools across the country are really struggling with this issue.”
There is much debate over how to deal with managing this debt, while also not singling out students or parents with unpaid bills.
In this particular instance, some parents feel that the sunbutter and jelly sandwiches would have served as a marker for lunch debt and enabled bullying.
A 2014 report by the Department of Agriculture found that about 45 percent of school districts withheld a hot meal and instead provided a cold sandwich to such students. But the practice of swapping a hot meal for a cold sandwich is just one of the measures that schools often take to deal with the issue.
In other cases nationwide, lunch shaming practices have included making students wear a sticker, stamp, or wristband to alert their parents of lunch debt.
Schools across the nation have taken steps to avoid lunch shaming, with laws passed in Washington State, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Oregon. Meanwhile, other schools have relied on private donations.
See what others are saying (CNN) (New York Times) (USA Today)
Was an Iowa Official Asked to Resign Over His Love of Tupac? He Says He Doubts It
- Jerry Foxhoven, the former director of Iowa’s Department of Human Services, was ordered to resign from his job days after sending a mass email to all 4,300 employees encouraging them to celebrate Tupac’s birthday.
- AP news obtained 350 pages of emails between Foxhoven and staff, which included quotes, lyrics, or other references to the rapper that he sent in hopes of uplifting his staff.
- The messages were mostly met with praise, but at least one staff member complained.
- Foxhoven was abruptly asked to resign without an explanation other than the office wanting to move “in a new direction,” but he says he doesn’t believe his love of Tupac was the reason for the decision.
Foxhoven Asked to Resign
A former Iowa official, who many believe was fired over his love of Tupac Shakur, says he thinks his firing had nothing to do with his support of the rapper.
Jerry Foxhoven, the former director of Iowa’s Department of Human Services, was ordered to resign from his job days after he sent a mass email to employees celebrating Tupac.
On Tuesday, the Associated Press issued a report that said it had obtained emails that showed Foxhoven routinely sent messages to employees about Tupac. According to AP News, the agency released 350 pages of email with the words “Tupac” or “2Pac” in then, which were sent to and from Foxhoven’s account during is two-years on the job.
The mass email in question was sent on June 14 and was sent to all 4,300 agent employees. In it, Foxhoven reminded employees that Father’s day was just a few days away and coincided with Tupac’s birthday. He encouraged staff to celebrate by listening to one of his songs and included what he said was an “inspiration quote” from the artist: “Pay no mind to those who talk behind your back, it simply means that you are 2 steps ahead.”
Along with celebrating the rapper’s birthday, Foxhoven also noted that he was celebrating his two-year anniversary as director and thanked the staff for their work.
The following workday, Governor Kim Reynolds’ chief of staff asked him to resign.
Here is the email 66 year old Jerry Foxhoven sent to his staff, the day he was fired.— Tim Mak (@timkmak) July 17, 2019
He notes 2Pac’s bday is also Father’s day
“Hard to believe he has been gone for almost 23 years”
By all accounts, a kind email pic.twitter.com/ohSxSVpzJL
Longrunning Love For Tupac
Foxhoven says he had been a huge Tupac fan since the ‘90s. “I’m a 66-year-old white guy from the Midwest who likes rap music, who likes Tupac!” he told NPR.
Foxhoven hosted weekly “Tupac Fridays” to play his music in the office and even celebrated his 65th birthday with Tupac-themed cookies, including ones decorated with the words “Thug Life.”
OMG he had a birthday party and his staff, knowing his love for tupac, brought him tupac themed baked goods 😭 pic.twitter.com/T3Fk76ASo3— Tim Mak (@timkmak) July 17, 2019
However, he was also known to quote other celebrities in holiday-themed messages. In other emails, Foxhoven marked the anniversary of the rapper’s death and sent a Valentine’s day message that shared lyrics and quotes about love.
Jerry celebrates Valentine’s Day with, you guessed it: more Tupac quotes for his 4,000 staff at the Iowa Department of Human Services pic.twitter.com/Z208dgYmjT— Tim Mak (@timkmak) July 17, 2019
Foxhoven also allegedly told employees that Tupac’s lyrics inspired him to improve the company’s culture, specifically pointing to lyrics like “It’s time for us as a people to start makin’ some changes.”
Many praised Foxhoven for using his love of hip hop music to lift up the workplace, “I love your 2Pac messages,” one manager wrote June 14. “And the fact that you still send them (despite the haters) makes me appreciate them even more.”
“You are such a breath of fresh air Jerry!” another staff member wrote. “Thanks for all you do, to lift us up and help us feel better about what we do than we have felt in a long time!”
However, not everyone was a fan of the messages. According to AP News, at least one person complaining to lawmakers last year about them.
Motivation For Firing Unclear
Foxhoven’s departure comes after numerous controversies at the agency including difficult contract negotiations with companies that run the Medicaid program, a trial concerning alleged mistreatment of boys at a state juvenile home, and an increase in deaths at a center for the disabled.
While it hasn’t been confirmed that Foxhoven was pushed to leave over various Tupac messages, the timing is making many suspicious. Employees have been speculating that the two must be linked, thought Foxhoven has said they might not be.
In a text message to AP News, he said believed that the governor had made the decision to “go in a different direction” before he sent his mass email. He said he wasn’t given a reason for the resignation request, but added that he doubted Tupac was a factor.
“I think it’s a coincidence,” Foxhoven told The New York Times in a phone interview, adding that the governor’s office had requested a meeting with him days before he sent the email.
“I always try to assume the best of everybody, and I can’t imagine that [the governor] would base her decision on the Tupac incident,” he told NPR. “If this is the reason, I’m really disappointed.”
However, Foxhoven also told NPR that his tenure at the Department of Human Services ended without warning or a chance for an orderly transition. He said he was not even granted a meeting with Reynolds and added that the governor’s chief of staff confiscated his cellphone and ID cards on the spot, ordering him not to return to his office.
Foxhoven also said that many directors do not serve long terms and said that his two-year tenure meant that he had outlasted many of his predecessors. Foxhoven, who had previously worked as a lawyer, professor, and children’s rights advocate, told the Times that he believed Reynolds was simply filling posts with “more political people.”
Pat Garrett, a spokesperson for the governor, told the AP: “As the governor has said, a lot of factors contributed to the resignation of Jerry Foxhoven and now Gov. Reynolds is looking forward to taking DHS in a new direction.”
According to the AP: “The governor’s office has refused to elaborate on those factors, despite an Iowa law that requires state agencies to release the “documented reasons and rationale” when employees resign instead of being terminated.”
For now, Gerd W. Clabaugh, the director of the Department of Public Health, will serve as interim director of human services.
As for Foxhoven, he told NPR that he was glad his emails are making headlines because it allows for discussions about stereotypes and music. He then noted being especially upset by a recent story about a 17-year-old teen in Arizona who was fatally stabbed by a man who said the victim’s rap music made him feel “unsafe.”
“It’s important for us to break down those stereotypes: if you listen to rap music, you’re a criminal or dangerous. It’s not true at all,” he said., adding that he hoped his situation could lead to “having open discussions about race and what we have in common, instead of what separates us.”
See what others are saying: (AP News) (The New York Times) (NPR)
Bill Pickett to Lil Nas X: The Untold Story of Black Cowboys…
Cowboys are the ultimate Americana. They are an image ingrained in our culture and ever-present in film and television throughout the years. There are old western movies starring John Wayne, the classic TV show The Lone Ranger, and famous outlaws like Billy the Kid and Butch Cassidy. What you may not know, however, is some of these classic images have actually whitewashed the real history of cowboys in the American West.
Because while most of our classic references of cowboys are traditionally white men, many cowboys weren’t white. Historians estimate one in four cowboys in the wild west were black. This is the untold story of black cowboys in the American West.
Former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad Discriminated Against Openly Gay Official, Jury Finds
- On Monday, an eight-person jury in Polk County, Iowa found that former governor, Terry Branstad, discriminated against a state official because of his sexual orientation.
- The former official, Chris Godfrey, filed the lawsuit against Branstad as well as other officials in the state of Iowa in January 2012.
- After seven years, the case finally went to trial in June 2019 and ended six weeks later with the jury awarding Godfrey $1.5 million for emotional distress.
- Branstad resigned as Governor in May 2017, after he was appointed as the U.S. Ambassador to China, a role he still holds.
A jury in Iowa awarded former state official Chris Godfrey $1.5 million after they determined that he had been discriminated against for his sexual orientation by the governor at the time, Terry Branstad.
Godfrey, who was Iowa’s commissioner of workers’ compensation, filed a lawsuit against Branstad, the state of Iowa, and other state officials in January 2012. Court records show that after seven years, the case finally went to trial in June 2019 and ended six weeks later with the decision to award Godfrey.
The former state official was awarded $1 million for being denied his constitutional due process rights and another $500,000 for the discrimination and retaliation he faced.
How This Happened
Godfrey was appointed Iowa’s workers’ compensation commissioner in 2006 and was reappointed just before Terry Branstad became Iowa’s governor in 2011. Godfrey says that once Branstad came into office, he asked Godfrey to resign from his role. The state official refused and as a result, his salary was cut by almost $40,000.
In Iowa, a commissioner holds their position for 6 years to protect it from partisan politics. However, the governor is able to ask a commissioner to step down from their role and if that request is refused, the governor can reduce the commissioner’s pay. According to local reports, Godfrey was one of 29 appointees Branstad asked to resign when he came into office.
Throughout the lawsuit, Branstad insisted he did not know Godfrey’s sexual orientation and asked him to resign due to concerns that businesses had.
However as the case continued, Branstad later admitted that Godfrey had only received positive reviews.
When the lawsuit went to trial in June 2019, Godfrey’s lawyer argued that he was shunned by Branstad’s office because he was the only openly gay man working as an executive at the time. The attorney noted specific examples, like how Godfrey was not invited to a retreat for Branstad’s department heads and executive staff.
In addition to Godfrey, other officials in Iowa have spoken out about Branstad, like current Polk County Supervisor Matt McCoy.
During the trial, McCoy testified that Branstad’s administration was a “men’s club,” and added that “being gay in 2011 through 2015 was not an easy thing and [Godfrey] was definitely experiencing discrimination.”
As for Godfrey, he explained that the lawsuit for him was about getting justice. “After I had been asked to resign twice, after my pay was slashed, I felt obviously personally attacked, I needed justice,” he told the court.
What happened to Branstad?
As for the former governor, in December 2016 he was appointed U.S. Ambassador to China by President Donald Trump. Branstad was later confirmed in May 2017, after a vote 82 to 13, and he resigned as governor two days later.
According to The Economist, Branstad and China’s ambassador are “old friends,” which is considered a great compliment in Chinese culture. The two met in 1985 during Branstad’s first term as Iowa’s governor. The article notes that in 2015, Iowa’s agricultural exports to China made up $1.4 billion of the $2.3 billion exported from the U.S.