New Law Bans Schools From Filing Lawsuits For Unpaid Meal Fees

Tim Lauer / CC BY 2.0

ALBANY (WENY) – A new law in New York State will ban schools and school districts from filing a lawsuit against families for unpaid meal fees.

The law builds on measures from the state’s “No Student Goes Hungry” program and helps protect students and families from “legal tactics related to their inability to make payments for school meals”.

“Taking families to court over unpaid school meals is cruel, draconian, and runs counter to a school’s fundamental mission to ensure the wellbeing of every student,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “This legislation builds upon this administration’s work to end lunch shaming in New York and makes it clear that no family in need should have to endure a burdensome and costly legal process over their children’s nutritional health.”

In 2018, all schools in the state adopted plans to end “meal shaming” of students who don’t have money for lunch to ensure “every student is still provided a meal without humiliation or shame”. The new law banning legal action also works in concert with the USDA’s pandemic-era plan to offer school meals provided through the National School Lunch Program free of charge to all students through June 2022.

“Across the country, families are being publicly shamed and sued by schools over unpaid debt caused by nothing more than their children eating a meal,” said Assemblywoman Anna Kelles, who sponsored the bill and represents parts of Tompkins County.  “This law will prevent that in New York State. There are other ways to support our schools but shaming children is not one that we as New Yorkers can support. School is and should always be about education and growth.  I want to thank the governor for signing this law and standing with our children and their families.”


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