After several failed attempts and compromises during the legislative session — and a heated debate with members of the House Freedom Caucus on Wednesday — Rep. Helen Giddings succeeded in getting the House to pass a measure that targets "lunch shaming" in schools.
The proposal, which was tacked on as an amendment to Senate Bill 1566, would require local school boards to develop a grace period policy that ensures students without enough money in their school lunch accounts have some time to resolve the issue.
The original bill by Giddings, D-DeSoto, included provisions for a grace period, but also explicitly mentioned it may not publicly identify a student with a negative balance on their meal card. Her legislation, which was killed by the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus earlier this month, stated the district should privately notify the student's parents or guardians and provide those meals through the same serving line as regular meals. That language was missing from the amendment proposed today.
Giddings said Texas students have been turned away from getting a hot meal when they don't have sufficient funds.
Republican Rep. Jonathan Stickland of Bedford protested against the amendment, calling it a mandate.
"No one is talking about whether a kid should be fed or not," Stickland said, adding that it's already against the law to take a lunch away from children on free-and-reduced lunch programs.
SB 1566, which passed on third reading, would require more school board oversight over student achievement and school district operations.