Parents are claiming classism in a Florida school cafeteria.
A letter sent home with a Florida school's orientation packet asks for PTSA donations and offers children a pass to the front of the lunch line if they donate a certain amount. With the recent rise in awareness over lunch shaming, this pay-to-play arrangement caught the attention -- and ire -- of several parents.
A spokesperson for Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Polk County said the whole thing was a mistake.
The letter appears to offer the lunch line pass in exchange for a $100 donation, among other tiers of donation rewards.
“You got those who can pay, and those who cannot,” said Christ Stephenson, the father of a student at the academy.
Attending middle school is rough enough, Stephenson said, so when he saw the form in his sixth grader’s orientation packet, he went red.
“'Hey, my dad has more money than you, I get to eat first. You have to wait, you have to wait,'” said Stephenson, imitating the possible teasing and bullying that could come from the fundraising idea.
Stephenson and other parents were outraged. Many reached out directly to the principal of the academy, who said he didn’t sign off on the paperwork.
“This definitely hits home for me, and I am very upset about it,” said Brian Andrews, principal of Lawton Chiles Middle Academy.
Andrews has been with the middle school four years . Since he’s arrived, he said he has changed many things to be as inclusive as possible.
“Nobody is a second-class citizen here, and I would encourage anybody to speak to parents that have been here,” Andrews said.
A statement from the PTSA addresses the issue:
“We look to strive to look for new and innovative fundraising ideas to enhance the school experience for our students. We offer a variety of fundraising options for our students and families to choose from each year. This Family and Business Sponsorship program was explored but we decided not to implement. Due to a clerical error, the form was inadvertently included in the Orientation packets. Our families have been notified this program is not being offered. The intent of our PTSA is to always do the best for our students and families.”
“Where were the checkpoints missed," said Stephenson. "Who allowed and approved documents to be distributed to 300 some-odd students without having read it?"
The principal told Tampa-based WFTS that he never saw the form and would have never included it in the packet.
“What we do behind these walls, I truly believe we are for all kids, and we will continue to do that,” said Andrews.