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Profiles October 2021

Oct. 4, 2021
People, Places and Goings-on in Educational Facilities and Business

Waukesha (Wis.) board reverses decision, will allow all students access to free lunch

The Waukesha (Wis) school board has voted 5 to 4 to rescind its previous decision and has agreed to let all district students take part in the federal government’s free school lunch program regardless of family income.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the Waukesha board reversed course after its decision to opt out of the federal program drew national attention—and anger.

The U.S. Agriculture Department’s Food and Nutrition Service decided earlier this year to extend the availability of its “Seamless Summer Option” through June 30, 2022, “based on the exceptional circumstances of this public health emergency.” In response to the Covid-19 pandemic and widespread disruption of schools, the federal government made the school lunch available free to all students regardless of family income.

But the Waukesha board initially decided not to take part in the program for 2021-22; one board member said offering free lunch to everybody would make it easier for them to “become spoiled.” District officials also noted that providing free meals to all had led to increased food waste; officials also said that because all meals were free, some families were not completing the forms normally needed to qualify for the program and that was skewing the district’s data for funding and other community assistance programs.

Even if Waukesha had decided not to continue participating in the "Seamless Summer Option," students who qualified for free or reduced-price lunch based on family income would still be able to receive meals.

Some board members opposed to rescinding their decision said they did not want to succumb to “intimidation and threats,” but the majority of the board said the controversy made them more aware of the hunger problem in Waukesha.

"The truth is that many of our students are hungry throughout the school day and we have the ability to do something about that,” said board member Greg Deets.

Michigan district sued after employee gives unwanted haircut to 7-year-old girl

The father of a 7-year-old Michigan girl whose hair was cut by a teacher without her parents' permission is suing the Mount Pleasant school district, a librarian and a teacher's assistant.

The suit contends that Jurnee Hoffmeyer’s constitutional rights were violated when a school employee cut the girl’s hair. The complaint also alleges that Jurnee, who is biracial, was the victim of racial discrimination.

MLive.com reports that the incident occurred in March. A classmate cut Jurnee’s hair on a school bus, which prompted Hoffmeyer to take the girl to a beautician to style her shorter hair. A few days later, Jurnee came home from school with nearly all her hair cut off. The suit contends that Jurnee’s library teacher, with the help of a teaching assistant, cut the girl’s hair without her consent or permission of her parents.

Following the incidents, Jurnee’s parents transferred her to a different school.

The Mount Pleasant district investigated the incident and reprimanded the employee who cut the girl’s hair for violating district policy, but the probe concluded that the employee’s action was not motivated by racial bias.

National Guard deployed to transport students in Massachusetts

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has activated some of the state's National Guard personnel to help get students to school in the midst of a bus driver shortage.

Boston.com reports that nearly 200 guard personnel have been trained to serve as drivers of school transport vans known as “7D vehicles."  The process includes vehicle training, background screening, and a review of all health and safety measures.

At least nine school systems will receive assistance from the Guard.

Another 40 or so National Guard members have been activated to provide operational support.

Many areas in Massachusetts and across the nation are struggling to provide transportation because of the driver shortage.

In Boston, one teacher reported on Twitter that because of the driver shortage, his high school was forced to use a party bus equipped with a stripper pole to transport students on a field trip.

Districts and bus companies say the industry already had been experiencing driver shortages nationwide, and the Covid-19 pandemic has made it even more difficult to find qualified bus drivers.

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