Anti-lunch shaming bill sponsor concerned amendments 'defeating the purpose' of legislation

Posted at 9:53 PM, Feb 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-04 23:12:28-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The proposed Tennessee Anti-Lunch Shaming Act sponsor is concerned amendments passed in the K-12 subcommittee defeat the purpose of his legislation.

HB 1589 was filed by Representative John Ray Clemmons and aims to keep public schools across the state from punishing students with lunch debt. Specifically, it states schools are not allowed to require students with lunch debt to do chores, miss school activities, or even graduation.

An amendment to HB 1589 was presented by K-12 subcommittee chair Rep. John Ragan Tuesday.

The amendment would, among other changes, require students under 18 who meet certain criteria for employment and income to pay their lunch debt before they can take part in a school-related activity, graduate, or receive their diploma. Students 18 or older would also be responsible for paying off debt.

The requirement would not apply to students who qualify for free or reduced lunch.

In addition, the amendment adds language to authorize a school to refer a student's parent or guardian to the Department of Children's Services for investigation of child abuse or neglect if they are not paying for meals.

"I appreciate this amendment and thoughtful attempt to amend this legislation," Rep. Clemmons said. "I do have concerns about most of these amendments though defeating the purpose of the bill."

Rep. Ragan gave Rep. Clemmons the opportunity to roll the bill, but Rep. Clemmons allowed the legislation to move forward.

Rep. Clemmons hinted he would work on an additional amendment in full committee.