“Don’t Deny Kids Lunch, Dowagiac Schools!”
That’s the message one Michigan mother is spreading after a school official threw out her teenage son’s meal over a $4.95 debt on his account. Even though the outstanding debt was paltry, it warranted the punishment per school policy, which denies hot lunches to students who owe any amount of money on their accounts. For Dominic Gant, a junior at Dowagiac Union High School in Dowagiac, Michigan, the incident was understandably humiliating because it happened in such a public way: “It was really embarrassing, especially in front of the whole class,” he told ABC 57.
The situation didn’t sit well with Gant’s mother, Amanda Keown, who immediately contacted school officials after she heard about her son losing his lunch. When they referred her to the school’s standing policy on outstanding debt, Keown took action on her own, paying off her son’s balance — and every other student’s lunch debt at the high school. Her check totaled around $200 and helped nearly 20 students, but for the frustrated mom, it’s about so much more than just the money. “I realize I didn’t have to do that,” Keown said of her donation. “But I don’t want another kid going through what my son went through.”
Now, Keown is taking it one step further, starting a petition to change what she considers an unfair policy. “I want guidelines set in place for all of the Dowagiac Schools,” she writes on the petition, which has garnered nearly 20,000 signatures since Keown launched it on Monday. “No child should be denied food EVER. Under no circumstances. If there is a case where the child owes more than $10.00 then he needs to be offered a cold sandwich at the very least.”
It’s unclear whether Keown’s petition will change Dowagiac school lunch guidelines as of yet. But her actions are undoubtedly heartwarming — and will hopefully inspire other parents to take action on behalf of their kids in the future.