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5 things: Maine paying student workers $75K for violating break policies

This and more are the things you missed for the week of Feb. 6.

Each Friday I compile a list that highlights five things you probably missed in the news that week and why you should care about them.

Here’s your list for the week of Feb. 6:

1. Maine paying student workers $75K for violating break policies

Dining services at the University of Maine is paying current and former student workers $75,000 in back wages for violating its own policies that required employees be paid for short breaks during shifts. The back payment will affect some 900 people. Student employees were not paid for their 15-minute breaks during shifts over a two-year period. The average back pay is $41; however, at least one person is receiving a check as high as $556. The issue was brought to a head last fall when three student workers expressed concern about having to clock out during their breaks.  

Read more: UMaine to pay $75K in back wages to student dining services employees

2.    California proposes school lunch debt bill

A new bill proposed in California would require schools to serve students a meal even if they have a school meal debt. Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, who proposed the bill, said this: “We know that hunger undercuts a child’s ability to learn and succeed in school. We also know that embarrassing children in front of peers can destroy their self-confidence. That is why it’s important to stop school lunch shaming and create a different approach for tackling lunch fee debt.” I applaud the effort to make sure every child is fed a school meal, but Hertzberg doesn’t seem to understand the actual issue here. I have never once heard of a school denying a student a meal if he had a meal debt. Instead, the student would be offered an alternative meal. No school wants children to be hungry; that’s not in their nature and many child nutrition programs go into thousands of dollars of debt serving children who have unpaid meal debts. Hertzberg is insinuating that the opposite is happening: that schools are not feeding children any meal and that they are instead “shaming” them. Yes, there have been unfortunate incidents regarding policies governing when to give a child an alternative meal, but that child never goes hungry. Instead of praising schools for feeding hungry children who can’t pay, this bill shames those child nutrition departments. 

Read more: California bill would push schools to provide kids with lunch, even if meal fees are unpaid

3. Former Massachusetts director filed discrimination lawsuit over firing

Cheryl Maguire, the former director of foodservices at Malden Public Schools, has filed a lawsuit alleging she was mistreated and wrongfully terminated by the then superintendent David DeRuosi. Maguire says she was discriminated against based on her gender and age, and said DeRuosi become “agitated and aggressive” toward her on several occasions during discussions regarding the district’s unpaid meal debts. Maguire, who worked for the district for nearly 30 years before her firing, had previously filed a lawsuit claiming discrimination, which was dismissed due to a lack of probable cause that her age and gender were the cause of her firing.

Read more: Former Malden food services head sues city for discrimination, wrongful termination

4. Harvard dining employees share tips for protesting Trump
After its historic strike, members of Harvard’s dining services are offering students tips on protesting President Donald Trump. The event held last week was called Resisting Trump: Lessons from the HUDS Strike. Harvard’s dining workers succeeded in getting some of their union’s demands met because of their strike last year, and now they say that additional protests are needed to challenge the Trump’s administration’s policies, including Vice President Michael Pence’s support for right to work legislation, which allows employees to decline to join or pay dues to unions in their workplaces. 

Read more: HUDS Workers Offer Advice on Protesting Trump
5.  Another school meal lunch photo goes viral

A student in Virginia took a photo of her meal, sent it to her mom and the rest, as they say, is history. The photo was shared more than 1,200 times on social media. The meal looks pretty skimpy, and the student told her mom she was hungry, prompting the mom to bring another lunch to the school for her child to eat. The issue here, says the child nutrition department, isn’t that enough food wasn’t offered to the student but that she declined to take enough food to fill her up. Under the offer versus serve provision, the student had enough food to comply with federal regulations for a reimbursable meal, but apparently not enough to satisfy her hunger. It feels like I write about a version of this every week in this column. How can schools better educate their customers (both students and families) so that they know the policies and can select enough food to fill them up?

Read more: Skimpy taco photo stirs debate on Halifax County High School lunch
Bonus: 6 ways lunch habits change throughout the year

Contact Becky Schilling at [email protected].
Follow her on Twitter: @bschilling_FM

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