Friday, September 26, 2014

Student Punished For Sharing Lunch

A California student was punished for sharing his lunch with a hungry friend this month, because the school district has a policy against students being compassionate and caring.

Kyle Bradford, 13, is an 8th grader at Weaverville Elementary in northern California. At lunch one day, his friend had been served a cheese sandwich, because he may not have been able to afford a full meal. Kyle had gotten the chicken burrito, but he wasn't hungry at the time.

So what do two boys who don't want their lunches typically do? Throw them out and don't eat until dinner.

What did Kyle do? Gave some of his chicken burrito to his friend, so he wouldn't be hungry.

What did the school do? Gave him detention, because school administrators aren't allowed to make common sense decisions.

"We have a policy that prohibits students from exchanging meals," cackled superintendent Tom Barnett, rubbing his hands together. "Of course if students are concerned about other students not having enough to eat we would definitely want to consider that, but because of safety and liability we cannot allow students to actually exchange meals."

Consider it they did. They could have done any number of things: expelled Kyle; made him write "I will not help others" 5,000 times; force fed him chicken burritos every day; or, shoved him in a closet full of rats. Instead they "only" gave him detention.

Nicely done, Weaverville. Your generosity and intelligence has not gone unnoticed.

In fact, it's been so noticed that Weaverville has been forced to shut down its Facebook page, because many other people were similarly "impressed" by their "generosity."

Whatever happened to the days of trading lunches? Swapping your cookies for a bag of potato chips? Or giving that weird kid your pimiento loaf sandwiches because your mom never understood how much you hated them?

I would hope kids today know what they're allergic to and what to avoid. I would hope every cafeteria is taking steps to ensure they don't use allergen-contaminated foods. I would especially hope cafeterias use the best ingredients to create lunches that are healthy and kids will enjoy.

In this column's 19 year history, that last sentence may be the funniest thing I've ever written.

Kyle's mom, Sandy, didn't believe her child should be punished for showing compassion. She thinks Kyle did the right thing.

"By all means the school can teach them math and the arithmetic and physical education, but when it comes to morals and manners and compassion, I believe it needs to start at home with the parent," she told KRCR TV.

I think schools should also be a place to reinforce manners and compassion. When I was a kid, school wasn't just a place where we learned math and history. We were taught the importance of fair play and honesty. We were taught about community, citizenship, and why we should help others.

In northern California, kids are being taught that adherence to the rules is vastly more important and honorable than helping someone in need.

It's lessons like this that create people who "were only following orders," a dark and sinister phrase if there ever was one.

This past school year, my friend, Ryan, learned of some kids at an Indianapolis elementary school who weren't eating lunch because their families were on the delinquent lunch accounts list, and couldn't afford to catch up.

Ryan paid every kids' lunch account so they could eat again.

The response was so overwhelming, he did it at another school, and then another, and friends started helping, and now he's starting a nonprofit called Feed The Kids at KidsLunches.org.

What Ryan is doing is helping kids eat. But what if the schools had policies that other people weren't allowed to pay for lunches? What if they were so inflexible as to not allow a good Samaritan to help those who needed it?

You can imagine the outcry if a school were to point to the policy manual and refuse to let Ryan and his group feed hungry kids. It's no different from what Kyle did, although, admittedly, people don't have allergies to money. Ryan's great work is rightfully rewarded, but Weaverville Elementary has punished Kyle Bradford for the same generous spirit.

Kyle has served his detention, but he's unrepentant. He said that he'll gladly do it again, just to make sure that a friend doesn't go hungry. Maybe, after this outcry, and more of Kyle's compassionate civil disobedience, the school will realize their cold-heartedness is teaching their students a very important lesson.

That blind obedience to stupid, arbitrary rules set by dictatorial authorities should be completely ignored for the sake of humanity.


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