CALCASIEU PARISH, LA (KPLC) - Louisiana lawmakers are working to put an end to children penalized or publicly embarrassed for not paying their school lunch debt.
A bill that's being considered in the Senate, would prohibit schools from doing that, but how would it affect the Calcasieu Parish school district?
Lunch-- some students might say it's the most important part of their school day, but if you haven't paid your school lunch bill that might not be the case.
"Currently it is legal to deny a meal to middle or high school students if they are unable to pay," said school nutrition program director, Jacqueline Richard. "With elementary school students, they can receive an alternate meal."
No lunch, along with students not being able to attend school events like prom, is what many are calling "lunch shaming."
"I don't think that's right," said Karrigan Creamer. "To not be able to go to prom just for not paying bills."
Louisiana representative Patricia Smith's proposal that recently passed the House, would prohibit schools from this practice.
"I really don't think it's fair to the kid," said Allysa Creamer. "I mean they have no control over whether or not they pay their lunch or not."
While those 7News found were all for the bill, Richard says it could create an issue for school districts.
"I think that it could prevent us from collecting lunch debt, and it could lead to increase lunch debt," she said.
Richard says Calcasieu Parish schools have never denied meals or provided alternative meals, but they do everything they can to reach out to parents about school lunch debt.
"We still struggle with an unpaid meal debt totaling right now over a quarter of million dollars," she said.
Schools in Calcasieu Parish can deny a student the chance to participate in school events if they haven't paid their lunch bills, but Richard says things could change depending on how far this bill goes.
"We will continue to monitor the progression of this bill, and we will change our policies according to legislation," she said.
Richard says they do see students with unpaid lunch debt that qualify for free and reduced lunches but never submitted their forms.
She says if parents believe their child falls into that category, they should submit the proper forms to get their status changed immediately.
To view the bill, click HERE.