'Take care of the children': Parents urge Franklin County administrators to change lunch policy

Policy doesn't allow high school students to get alternative lunch

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. – Monday night's Franklin County School Board meeting was nearly standing room only as four people expressed opposition to the school district's policy to not provide alternative lunches to high school students who have a negative balance on their lunch accounts, causing many students to go hungry.

The school district's policy only allows kindergartners through eighth-graders to receive alternative lunches.

"I just implore you to do something to help with this need for our children in school and anywhere else in the county where it may be necessary," said Gary Bowman, a parent.

After expressing his opposition, Bowman began to recite a Bible verse, but his time to speak ran out before he could finish.

The board cut him off, which did not go over well with the crowd.

After everyone spoke, Bowman and about a dozen other parents gathered outside to speak to reporters.

"The bottom line is this: They can have the best technology in the state of Virginia, they can hire the best teachers, they can buy the most expensive and the most researched-based curriculum that's out there. But as long as a child is sitting in class hungry, none of that matters and that's what needs to be heard," one person said.

"Franklin County will take care of the children. We need the school board to take care of the children," said another person.

Franklin County High School senior Jasrielle Patterson also spoke.

Her Facebook post last week is what brought the district's school lunch policy into the spotlight.

"My brother was very upset he couldn't eat, so I went and asked the lunch lady about alternative meals. They said they don't do alternative meals anymore," Patterson said.

Since then, a GoFundMe account has raised about $6,300 to pay for student meals, but how, exactly, it would be given to the school district to be used was a subject of debate during the meeting.

After the meeting, Franklin County's superintendent explained why the district's meal policy was written the way it was when it was implemented in 2017.

"We had students who were racking up quite a debt, so we were trying to get it back; small claims and those sort of things. We decided at that time we really had to bring the policy more under control so we're not having people charge exorbitant amounts," said Dr. Mark Church, superintendent.

Ultimately, the school board decided to come up with a uniform policy for all grades and will consider approving it at the next meeting.

To view the GoFundMe page, click here.