NY schools banned from filing lawsuits against parents for unpaid meal fees

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FILE – In this Monday, Oct. 29, 2018, file photo, kids eat lunch at an elementary school in Paducah, Ky. The Biden administration is expanding a program to feed as many as 34 million school children during the summer months. They’re using funds from the coronavirus relief package approved in March 2021. (Ellen O’Nan/The Paducah Sun via AP, File)

NEW YORK (WWTI) — Schools in New York State are now prohibited from filing lawsuits against parents or guardians for unpaid meal fees.

This was following the enactment of new legislation, S.5151A/A.65277A, signed by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Thursday.. The Governor’s Office stated that this builds on the state’s “No Student Goes Hungry” program, aiming to help protect students and families from legal tactics.

“Taking families to court over unpaid school meals is cruel, draconian, and runs counter to a school’s fundamental mission to ensure the wellbeing of every student,” Governor Cuomo said in a press release.

“This legislation builds upon this administration’s work to end lunch shaming in New York and makes it clear that no family in need should have to endure a burdensome and costly legal process over their children’s nutritional health,” he added.

This legislation following actions taken in 2018 to end “meal shaming” in New York State public schools. Since 2018, there have been cases made across the country by school districts threatening to file lawsuits or take families to court to collect fees.

Cuomo’s office stated that the new legislation will work to concert with commitment’s made on the federal level, ensuring that students in the United States receive “vital” meals.

To coincide with this effort, the the United States Department of Agriculture has announced that school meals provided through the National School Lunch Program will be provided free of charge to all students through June 2022.

The legislation prohibiting schools from filing lawsuits against parents or guardians in these cases was signed on July 29, 2021.

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