HAYWARD, Wis. – Officials in the Hayward school district are struggling to justify a $200 fine levied on a student who took a second lunch without asking that’s ignited concern and outrage from parents.
A Circuit Court brief published in the Sawyer County Record Jan. 20 provided the spark.
“The brief was regarding a student who was fined by law enforcement for taking a second lunch at the high school because he was not given permission to take it without paying, after being warned in the past not to do this,” the Record reports.
“Comments on the news brief escalated quickly over the weekend via social media, with people voicing concern that students in the district are not getting fed enough.”
NNC Now reports the brief, headlined “THEFT,” stated a 16-year-old boy forfeited $200.50 for the Dec. 14 incident. It claims the criminal charge was sought by the head cook, which school officials disputed.
“The student told the school resource officer that he receives one free lunch per day, but the one lunch was not enough and he is still hungry,” the brief read. “The officer advised him that he understood, but instead of stealing a second lunch, he needs to speak with an administrator …”
The issue prompted inquiries from NNC Now, ABC 13, and other news outlets, and a defensive reaction from school officials.
“Whether it be our head cook, whether it be a teacher’s aid, whether it be a teacher or a superintendent of a school. The process is when someone sees something going wrong with any sort of discipline issue the first thing is that’s a sign to the administrator,” Haward superintendent Craig Olson said.
“Then the administrator who is in charge of that element and goes through the investigation and there’s some cases referrals to police happen and then police make decision off statutes and whatnot,” he said.
Meanwhile, a GoFund Me page titled “Help Feed A Child” raised more than $1,000 to cover the teen’s fines, ABC 13 reports.
“The boy’s mother says she’s overwhelmed with the amount of support she has received from the Hayward community and as far away as Chicago,” according to NNC Now.
Aimee Wickland Zettel wrote on the GoFund Me page:
Of course the child should have asked permission first but I can only imagine the embarrassment he must have felt receiving the income based free lunch and then asking for another lunch because he was still hungry. I do not know the family but adding a $200.50 fine to an already taxed budget would be devastating.
I’ve called the school and am working with them to anonymously fill his lunch account so he doesn’t go hungry or be denied another lunch. His lunch may be the only hot meal he gets each day.
Zettel told ABC 13 any excess money raised will go to other students in need.
NNC Now reports Wisconsin Department of Education officials and attorneys are not intervening in the case. School officials would not discuss details of the incident.