Sometimes I wonder whether we have the right to call ourselves a civilized society.

We are presented this Sunday with an article from the Everett Herald that proves just how messed up we are at a number of levels.  The article, “School Lunch Issue Reveals a Sorrier Problem”, reveals a number of issues about ourselves and how we treat our fellow human.  I am also sorry to say that I don’t believe for a minute that similar does not happen in places other than in the Edmonds School District, the location mentioned in the article.

Our schools everywhere in Cascadia are run rather strictly.  Any child carrying as much as an asiprin tablet, if caught, can be expelled from school.  Any child with a pretend weapon of any sort, even in the name of a school play, can be expelled.  So certainly our teachers and administrators are trying to teach our children a lesson that any level of indiscretion, no matter how minor, will be dealt with harshly.

I can only presume that this is the line of reasoning used in taking school lunches away from children who are short the dollar or two that lunch might cost, or whose parents might be behind on paying the school for lunch.  At the face of it, in most any other situation in our lives, we live in a world where we are only entitled to things we can pay for.  OK so far.

This program takes things a step further.  In this case, children are allowed to actually go through the line and get their lunch on a tray.  Then this lunch is taken from them and thrown away if the payment cannot be made.  Further, we are not talking only about high-school-aged kids.  We are seeing this treatment of children as young as Kindergarten age.  At this age, children are not concerned about the economics of life.  They are concerned about being able to eat lunch like the other kids, and not being embarrassed in front of their classmates.

Did no one at the school see any problems here?  First of all, it was my understanding that the federally-funded schjool lunch program was in place to ensure that all children could get at least one nutritious meal every day, despite what was being served at home.  The quality of the lunches could be debated, but that is not the point.  We are taking lunch away from many of the poor children that can least afford not to be eating.  Even if the district’s lunch-money “shortfall” really was $207,763 last year, I’m quite certain that the average elementary school student would be lost by the economic relationship between that figure and having their lunch forcefully taken from them.

Second is a problem of equal importance.  School is, and always has been, an educational experience from the moment the children get to school to the time they leave.  They look to their teachers and other adults present for guidance on how to act in their lives.  They look at their classmates to understand how to live together in our society.  This makes it that much more virulent that an adult at school would decide that the best way to deal with a situation like this is to run up to a child and grab their lunch away from them, all while embarrassing them in front of others.  If the child exhibited the same kind of behavior on the playground to their friends of teachers, they would be disciplined.  If an incident like this happened in the workplace, the employee would be disciplined.  But our enlightened school staff find this an appropriate way to solve conflicts in the cafeteria.  this is a truly sad development.

Sure, the kids didn’t have their school lunch money.  Perhaps someone should find out why.  But to solve this problem by having an adult make a scene in a public place is certainly not the best course of action in this case.  We learn a lesson in school that “rules are rules”  I believe that it shows a severe lack of quality in our educators if they are unable to use better means to help our children thrive in school.

Is it really possible that the only way to control our children in school is to be so inflexible that we cannot ask “why” something happened?  Must we always choose the most severe punishment possible, even in cases where the child blundered into doing something wrong?  I am really starting to wonder if the problem in schools is not our children, rather, that it might be a staff that doesn’t understand the need to nurture children toward growth.

Really — what is to be gained by treating out youngsters like criminals for every minor act that they or their parents might do?  And what response is left for the time when the child really does something wrong?

I leave you with a challenge:  How is this problem dealt with at your local school?