“My jaw dropped. I felt like I got kicked in the gut,” said Kevin Holt, a US Army veteran turned special education teacher in Texas.
Holt may have spent 32 years as a medic and helicopter pilot in the army, but nothing braced him when he witnessed a student getting cruelly “lunch shamed” in the school cafeteria.
After retiring from the army, he became a special education teacher in Central Texas.
Breakfast was being served when the incident happened. What shocked Holt the most was that a a four-year-old girl was the victim of the cashier’s insensitive remarks and actions.
Not only was this a practice in his own school district. He later found out that other states were doing this to school children, too.
“She got to the cashier, they scanned her PIN and the cashier said this to the 4-year-old: ‘You have no money.’ She reached down, picked up her tray, took the milk off the tray, dumped the food, and sent the child away crying, ” Holt said, recalling the incident.
Other lunch shaming tactics from other schools included stamping the child’s hand with bright red ink as a reminder for their parents to pay their overdue lunch bills.
He said in an interview, “Her last meal might have been 12 or 13 hours ago. Insult to injury is the fact that they dump the food in the presence of your child. The message that sends to a child is ‘I don’t care about you or your feelings or your hunger.’”
Holt wanted a change in the bigger picture, so he created a petition through Change.org to end lunch shaming in Texas. “If it doesn’t happen in this legislature, I’ll be back in 2019, I’ll be back in ’21. Whatever it takes, because treating kids this way is wrong. Right now, it’s state-sponsored bullying because the laws allow it in Texas.”