New Mexico recently enacted a law designed to protect children from “lunch shamin” students because they can’t pay for their school lunch. The law complies with a federal directive requiring all states to enact formal lunch payment policies before July 1, 2017.
School Lunch Shamin Laws
The New Mexico law requires New Mexico schools:
- provide a meal to nearly every student who asks for one, regardless of ability to pay;
- ensure that all needy children are enrolled in the federal school lunch program; and
- avoid discriminatory and stigmatizing treatment of children who cannot pay for lunch.
Texas and California legislatures are considering enacting similar “lunch shaming” laws. The New Hampshire legislature has yet to take up such a bill, but it has enacted a general anti bullying statute. See RSA 193-F. This law requires schools to:
- notify parents of suspected bullying
- investigate any concern over bullying; and
- take appropriate action to stop the bullying.
New Hampshire Anti-Bullying Law
What many parents might not understand is that these laws that protect children in public school are only as good as their enforcement. The New Mexico law, for example, does not state the legal consequence to schools which violate the law, so it is unclear from the law’s language whether a parent might sue a school for damage caused to a child for violation of the law. Meanwhile, the New Hampshire bullying statute is very clear; it states definitively that a school may not be sued for damages for violating the bullying law.
What Can Parents Do in NH?
This is not to say there is no relief for New Hampshire children who suffer injury due to a school’s violation of the bullying statute. Parents may complain to the New Hampshire Department of Education, who must investigate and, upon a finding of bullying, take steps to stop the bullying. However, the Department is not empowered to order compensation to the injured student. .
If you would like assistance with a matter involving school bullying in New Hampshire, it’s easy to talk to our NH lawyers at 1-800-240-1988 or fill out our online form.