The Second Line Blog

Dreams Yet to Be Fulfilled

With the new year here, there is an opportunity to reflect on what we accomplished in 2017 and what remains to be done to advance educational equity in 2018. It is also fitting that the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday always starts off the new year. The legacy of this great leader fills us with a renewed hope and energy for what we might accomplish in the year ahead, and also provides a framework for our inquiry. We might ask whether we are any closer to fulfilling his dreams and the dreams of the civil rights movement. We might also ask what we still need to do in the months ahead.

Looking back at 2017, there have certainly been some challenges to equity. Early in the year, the Education Department rolled back protections for transgender students to use the bathrooms aligned with their gender identity, rescinded guidelines outlining the rights of students with disabilities, and scaled back investigations into civil rights violations at public schools and universities. However, the bright spot of 2017 is the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which is a law passed by the Obama administration that seeks to provide support and resources to historically disadvantaged schools and students. Nationwide, states are beginning to implement the new law.

In Louisiana, we have seen the beginning of ESSA-related changes, which has provided increased access to critical information regarding students of color, and English as a Second Language and disabled students. Schools are now facing increased accountability for failing to serve those students and for disproportionate rates of suspension. Moreover, throughout 2017 the newly formed State Advisory Council on Student Behavior and Discipline has been meeting and crafting recommendations for comprehensive changes to the school discipline code. They have been laying the groundwork for much-needed changes that will likely happen in the upcoming 2018 session. In summary, we see the state moving in the right direction.

However, 2018 will still require a lot of energy and a lot of work. Louisiana advocates need to remain vigilant in ensuring that the state stays true to its commitment to implementing ESSA. Additionally, while the Advisory Council is working on legislation, it also has not yet received meaningful public input. The advocacy community will have to watch the Council’s proposals carefully and provide feedback, as well as engage with any legislation introduced in 2018 to ensure they are in alignment with key principles of equity.

On a national level, we have to keep fighting for the rights of all students. Legislators promised to hold firm on passing a measure to renew protections for ‘Dreamers’—students and young immigrants who lack legal documentation because they were brought to the United States by their parents when they were very young. However, the legislators disappointed the immigrant advocacy community when they failed to keep this promise this past December. In January we must demand the quick passage of a bill with protections for Dreamers. We have to fight for their dreams of equity too.

Additionally, it seems the Education Department has its eye on a 2014 letter from the Obama administration about school discipline and race, which included instructions for schools to investigate complaints of discrimination related to discipline policies. The Education Department has said it will delay enforcement of a rule related to this guidance. We have to stand firm by pressuring the Education Department to remain committed to alternatives to suspensions.

We certainly have our work cut out for us in 2018. Thankfully we have the wisdom and insights of great leaders, such as MLK, to guide us into this new year and a new challenge. He reminds us we are “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” We have to continue to believe in his dream of equity for all and keep working toward it. In looking back at 2017, we see that change is slow, but it is happening despite the challenges we are facing from the current administration. We will hold steady and strong and put in one letter, one call, and one bill at a time. Then, at the end of the next year, we can look back again, and see that the needle has moved a little farther toward equity and that we are a little closer to fulfilling the dream.

ReNEW to Close

ReNEW McDonogh will close in 2018. For parents and students who wished to attend the school, this comes as a surprise.
“For a conglomeration of reasons, scores actually fell in the first two years of operation.”

Read more here

‘Tis the Season

By Sherece Williams

Whether you celebrate Christmas with Santa Claus, Kwanza, or don’t celebrate at all, I’m sure this break is much needed.  The kids are tired. The teachers are tired.  It’s time for a break from it all.  I can’t express how I’m looking forward to this much needed time off.

Winter break is time intended to do just that break.  A break from the normal everyday hustle and bustle.  It is not however a break from some of the daily routines you should have established with your kids.   If you don’t have reading as part of your routine, this upcoming break is a good time to begin.

Daily, some time should be spent reading. Break  is an excellent time to do some recreational reading.  Instead of the teacher assigned reading, children can choose what they want to read. Parents can also make use of this time to catch up on something they planned on reading.

Children imitate their parents.  If your child sees you reading, they will want to read as well.  I remember as a child my mom used to read magazines a lot.  She’d pick up various magazines at the grocery checkout and regularly I’d see her spend time reading magazines.  Sometimes she’d cut things out and post to the board or refrigerator in the kitchen.  If it was exercises, they would be taped in the bathroom or she’d get inspired to change the living room furniture around.  Whatever the nature of the read, I’d see her reading on a regular basis.

I think I was in the third grade, when we received a flyer for a children’s magazine named Highlights. I went home with the flyer and begged my mom to pay for my subscription…and she did! The magazine was put out monthly. I’d receive the magazine in the mail with my name on it.  I LOVED this magazine.  I would read it from cover to cover.  The teacher would allow us to bring the magazine to school and we could read them in class during our independent reading time.  Needless to say everybody didn’t get the subscription so I felt privileged to have my own to bring to school.  I could do the puzzles in the book and color any pictures because it was mine.  I’d cut stuff out and hang it in my room.  I would read this magazine entirely.  Then,  I’d save them so once I was done reading everything in the current magazine, I’d go back to old ones from prior months to read them again.

I say this all to say, a part of my excitement about having my own magazine was that I was able to do just like my momma was doing.  I had my own to read.  Being that this magazine was catered to young readers, it was concerning things I wanted to read about and/or that I found interesting.  Today I still read magazines. My time is limited but I try to set aside time to read them especially if a cover topic catches my eye.  One of my favorites is Women’s Health.  There’s always something I need to know in it.

We have to set examples for our kids.  We not only have to tell them but we need to show them what’s important.  Good reading skills are a key factor in education.  You need to be able to read and comprehend in every subject. I hear parents say all the time, “My child struggles in reading but she’s better a math.”  Well, guess what?  It won’t be for long! After simple addition and subtraction math becomes much more complex and involves lots more reading.  I am a math person.  Math makes sense to me.  1+1 is always 2, but in reading,“a” isn’t always “a” and that’s crazy to me.  However, I learned how to decipher sounds to read.

We usually don’t like what we find difficult.  Reading and comprehending is a skill we need and use all of our lives. Reading is not something that you shouldn’t  avoid learning, so you have to keep at until you get it.  No if, ands or buts about it. Why not try other methods to appeal to your child intrest in getting them to read?  Introduce reading for leisure.

During this break, take your child to a bookstore or library and allow them to choose a book they might like.  Talk to them about it, not quiz them, just casually have conversation about whatever they are reading. As they read more, they will become better at it.  I know some are thinking, I have younger kids which means I have to read with them and that’s a chore. It’s winter break, what else are you doing?  Reading with your smaller children 5-10 minutes daily is sufficient. As they get older of course you need to increase the reading time as they read on their own.  Eventually, you won’t have to tell them to read.  I can’t stress enough how important reading is to a child’s educations.  Once they become good readers, every aspect of school will improve.

If reading regularly is not something you do already, take time over the break to start.  This is an excellent habit to form with your child.  I promise you won’t regret it.  Try it!

 

Dr. Lisa Green Derry Gives Us Confidence in New Orleans

Dr. Lisa Green Derry is a product of the New Orleans education system. She made this known many times at the education advocacy meetings where I first met her. Her passion and loyalty for our schools caught my attention. I recognized a deep sense of connection between her and her high school, McDonogh 35, but even more, her connection to New Orleans. We sat down to talk in a coffee shop, and the sounds of Louis Armstrong and other jazz musicians played in the background, a fitting soundtrack to her narrative. Similar to the music, Dr. Lisa in many ways is New Orleans.  Her success in life is the story of the city itself. In her life, one can understand the strength of New Orleans is in its culture and connections. In particular, her story teaches us how at one time the New Orleans education system served as a cultural and social hub.

Dr. Lisa grew up a block from the St. Bernard projects in what is now called Columbia Park, where she walked to Phillips Elementary School and excelled academically. Her parents recognized the importance of education.  Though they had faced racial and economic barriers, her father had attended Southern University in Baton Rouge for a couple of years and her mother had graduated from high school in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Her mother became the first PTA President at Dr. Lisa’s elementary school and she also sold Avon products in the neighborhood,.

“I was the queen of my elementary school,” Dr. Lisa, told me with a proud smile. “I was also flippant though. It didn’t matter that my teachers knew my parents. If I had stuff on my mind I was going to tell them.”

Teachers were a part of the neighborhood. “They knew the Green children and Lil’ Lisa, the baby. I can remember all of my teacher’s names and I knew something about them outside of their teaching.”

For the next several minutes, Dr. Lisa began to paint a picture of her neighborhood community for me, with all the school administration and teachers that had been a part of it.  She told me about the music teacher who was a twin and played music at night at a hotel. Her junior high counselor, Mrs. Brown knew and loved all of the neighborhood kids. Dr. Lisa was friends with the daughter of her 3rd grade teacher, so she used to go to her house, three blocks from St. Bernard, and a couple of blocks from the projects. The teacher later became a principal.  Her principal in junior high was a colonel in the army and was also connected to a social club where her parents would attend parties. Her 9th grade Algebra teacher lived “across the lot” from her on St. Bernard Ave.  

She remembers that even when she was younger, her first connection to McDonogh 35 was through the conversation and memories her father shared from his time as a student at the high school. He and his sister had graduated from the high school in 1937 and 1938.  McDonogh 35 was one of the only public college-preparatory high schools for African American students in the city.  

“He spoke of it as a very special time,” she told me.

Yet, when Dr. Lisa was ready to attend high school, she was initially thinking about Rabouin High School.  Rabouin offered a nursing program and she was interested in the medical field. But her junior high counselor, Mrs. Brown, urged her to go to McDonogh 35, and urged her mother to send her there. Dr. Lisa remembers this influenced her decision, though her parents never pressured her to attend McDonogh 35.

Knowing this history, it makes sense that Dr. Lisa ended up working in education, but she didn’t exactly expect it.  After high school, Dr. Lisa’s career trajectory took her first into the math and science fields. She had been working as a medical technologist at Medical Center of Louisiana (formerly, Charity Hospital of New Orleans and Touro)  when she decided to answer a call for more teachers in these fields. At the time, she was already the mother of three children. She continued as a medical technologist while completing a master’s degree from Xavier. She then began working as a teacher in alternative education in 1988.

Reflecting on her time teaching, Dr. Lisa said, “In my time teaching, I was one of a few teachers who was certified who had also developed instructional practices in social justice… a lot of it was intuitive.”

After leaving the classroom, she continued in the education field, moving into specialist positions, including professional development, before ending up in the education non-profit sector.  Her connection to education continued to be a theme in her narrative. Even while she was living in Texas for a number of years, she would attend McDonogh 35 alumni meetings while she was back in town. She now continues to be an active alumnus.  Her son, the middle child, also graduated with honors from McDonogh 35.

As she told her story, I began to understand the strength of the connections that had weaved through the education system and supported her and the other children in her neighborhood. Her experience was truly an example of how important schools are to a community and vice versa. Her school and its staff were an integral part of the social and cultural networks that supported Dr. Lisa and gave her the self-assurance to succeed. In talking to her and at education meetings, it’s clear she attributes a large part of her success to these connections and supports — and not just her own, but also the success of other friends from her neighborhood. For example, two of her friends from McDonogh 35, Linda and Cherilyn, who were also from the neighborhood, became medical doctors.

Dr. Lisa also fears that children today do not have that sense of community and connection to their schools. In fact, when asked about the difference between the school system she knew, and today’s system, she emphasized one word: confidence.  

“One of the things we received when we left out of school…—we were confident. If you told us we didn’t know something, we were going to argue, we were going to say ‘But I know this.’ Our babies don’t get that now.”

I nodded. I understood. It’s not just the connections themselves. It is the sense of pride and rootedness that those connections foster—in a society that makes it difficult to feel proud and rooted. Which is why when Dr. Lisa shows up to an education meeting, she is going to show up with her shoulders back and her head up. She is going to get the microphone and tell us again that she is the product of the New Orleans education system. She is going to remind us, in her demeanor, speech, and advocacy, what New Orleans is really made of.

Lisa Green-Derry is the founder of New Orleans Born Raised and Returned (NOLA BRAR – pronounced “bruh”), an initiative and merchandise line designed to celebrate and support those committed to this city and the education of its children. 

 

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Equity is the Way to Equity

I recently sat in an education policy meeting where a funder was considering offering resources towards an education equity initiative.  It sounded great, but there was a problem. There were very few people of color in the meeting, which took place in the middle of the day in a high-rise office, overlooking the central business district.  These well-meaning, liberal white professionals were rolling their eyes and mocking the state of our government, preaching about how the need for equity was more important than ever.  It was almost comical to me, if it weren’t so aggravating. I left early for the sake of my sanity.  But before I left, I had one thing to say, “Maybe we should look at the larger thread of this work because there is a long history of equity work in the community. It’s not new.” I named one organization in particular, run by an African American woman who I admire for her congruency between what she says is her commitment to equity and how she does her work.  She develops community leadership and lifts up the voices of those most impacted by the school-to-prison pipeline.

Equity isn’t easy.  It takes a lot of hard work to break the habits ingrained in us as a result of our society. We are steeped in cultural norms that value dominance, hierarchy, and efficiency over cooperation, shared leadership, and time for relationship building. But in order to obtain equitable results, one must understand how to infuse the process with equity.  Policymakers, school administrators, and social justice organizations are trying to obtain equity, but find it elusive because they don’t know how to create it for themselves within their own structures and processes.

Which is why the results of the recent release of Urban League’s education equity report is no surprise.  The report simply highlights the results of inequitable systems and processes.  Low-income students and students of color in New Orleans are:

  • more likely to be taught by inexperienced teachers
  • more likely to be suspended out of school
  • less likely to have access to the most in-demand schools
  • less likely to have access to advanced placement classes.  

The report does a wonderful job of highlighting the issues and posing challenging questions to policymakers regarding their equity strategies being taken. I’d like to add a few other questions regarding the process to those listed in the report:

  1. How do we make the education policymaking process in New Orleans more equitable?
  2. How do we give parents, teachers, and students a prominent role in the decision-making processes?
  3. How might school and organizational leadership implement an equitable approach where the community guides the strategies and culture of their schools?

I certainly don’t claim to have the answers. In fact, as irritable as I was with the meeting that day, I too am guilty of replicating the same inequitable processes.  I hold education equity meetings at times that are not accessible to parents, teachers, and students. I sometimes give more weight to organizations with a history and reputation in the work, instead of acknowledging their history and reputation were enabled by privilege.  I don’t always go out of my way to make sure the smaller organizations run by people of color are not only represented, but also given the chance to lead. Though, in that room with mostly white representatives of predominately white organizations talking about equity, the incongruence became clearer.  I went back home and thought about some of the equity organizations I’d been working with over the past few years.  I thought about whether they were diverse and whether their leadership was diverse while they went out into the world asking for equity.  I thought about how funders, like the one at this meeting, have an implicit bias towards white organizations because they have more power, staff, and resources and then perpetuate this by offering them more funding — for projects that could and should be going to organizations run by people of color.  In this case, the dynamic was so unseemly that it was glaringly obvious what was happening. As the group talked about equity, they were perpetuating inequity.

As a result of that meeting, I realized that although I don’t have any control over the decision of the funder, I wanted to try harder to advance equity in my own sphere of influence.  I decided to begin by continuing to ask the question, “How can we make this process more equitable?” Because not only do I not have the answers, I shouldn’t even try to come up with them on my own. I need to find ways to broaden the conversation, to go beyond the usual circle of community leaders who end up at the table because they can afford to be there.  Certainly, it will take more time and resources to do this, but that’s exactly what equity is. We don’t reach equity like some endpoint or destination. We begin with this step, the opportunity right in front of us, this meeting.  If leaders such as policymakers, school administrators, and organization staff ensure that the process is equitable, we have a better chance for equitable outcomes.

You Shouldn’t Have to Fight for Your Child’s Education Alone

By Guest Blogger Katrina Gibson

My son’s first grade teacher strongly suggested I get him tested.  I took him to the doctor and was in shock after my son was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder.  I didn’t even understand what this diagnosis meant for him.  I also didn’t know this would be the beginning of a fight for my son’s education.  

In my area, we have two elementary schools.  The lower school contains grades PreK-4 – 2 and the upper school contained grades 3-5.  I was nervous about my son transitioning to the upper elementary school.  I didn’t know how he would perform, but he did better than I expected.  His third grade teacher spoke highly of him.  His grades were so good that he even made the honor roll.  I was a proud parent, but everything began going downhill again when he entered fourth grade.  

His teacher reached out to me with a list of concerns.  We scheduled a conference and I met with the teacher and the principal.  In the meeting, the principal said she believed the teacher my son had the previous year in third grade gave him good grades because she was a pushover and liked him a lot.  I just found this explanation hard to believe.  It would be one thing if he barely passed, but he had A’s on his report card.  I’m sorry, but I have never seen a teacher handing out A’s like Oprah handed out cars.  If that was truly the case, I was not about to allow the school to punish my child for its shortcomings.  The principal continued to explain the teacher was known for passing students.  What was she really trying to say?  What she suggesting my child wasn’t smart?  During this meeting, I went from confused to pissed.  

Each conference afterward, I became more confused and more defeated.  They were using words I didn’t understand.  One conference was a 504 meeting.  During this particular meeting the committee of teachers and the principal decided as a group that my child should be tested for special education services.  I disagreed, but I allowed my child to be tested just to prove them wrong.

Then, I decided to call my sister-in-law who works in the education field.  After sharing my frustrations, she went over the accommodations plan with me and said I needed to find an advocate.  I didn’t know at the time how important that was, but it made a huge difference.  After researching, I found a group called Families Helping Families and worked with a lady named Laura Nettles.  After listening to my concerns, we scheduled a meeting with the school.  At this meeting, I felt so confident because I knew I had someone on my side fighting for my child.  Unbeknownst to me, Mrs. Nettles was a well known advocate.  The looks on everyone’s faces when we entered was priceless.  Mrs. Nettles went through every page of my child’s accommodations and made suggestions on which ones she felt would help my child and which ones would not.

I left that meeting empowered.  I was 100% confident that I had taken the right action by finding an advocate.  Not only did she help me navigate this conference, but she helped me learn about the education laws and she informed me of my son’s rights.

All parents should know how to find an advocate.  I would have been truly lost and still struggling without one.  Mrs. Nettle restored a hope I had lost and I don’t know if I can ever repay her for all she has done.

OF COURSE, IT MUST BE SEGREGATION WHEN THE PARENTS WHO CHOOSE ARE BLACK AND BROWN

By Kimberly Smith and Trish Dziko, National Charter Collaborative

We’ve spent the past week trying to decipher the motivations behind the recent Associated Press article that claims charter schools are encouraging segregation solely by the fact that many educate underserved Black and Brown children. The articles – which appeared in localized versions in Albany, Detroit and Columbus – claim that while four percent of district schools enrolled a student body that is 99 percent students of color in 2014 – 2015, 17 percent of charters did as well.

To begin, charter schools are public schools that are free and open to all students. Despite overwhelming parent demand, charter schools still represent six percent of all public schools nationwide. The suggestion that charter schools are responsible for the lack of diversity in America’s public schools is flattering given our small scale but absurd.

When did it become “segregation” to choose to invest in children who are living in poverty so they can have a fighting chance in the world? If charter schools are perpetuating segregation, then so are community health centers, inner city YMCA programs and homeless shelter food lines – all who serve predominantly Black and Brown people. It is utterly ridiculous to call efforts to support Black and Brown children segregation. The only reason these types of services are necessary is to counter the long list of injustices and inequalities inflicted on people of color. Our organization, the National Charter Collaborative, represents over 400 Black and Brown charter school leaders — many of whom have dedicated their lives to educating underserved Black and Brown children, which, unfortunately is necessary because society has a habit of leaving children of color behind.

Public charter schools are here to give parents a choice on where to send their child to school — the same choice an affluent suburban white parent is afforded. The same critics who slam school choice often have the privilege of living in high-quality school districts, have the ability to move closer to a higher performing school, chose private schools or homeschool their children. The wealthy exercise school choice all the time. It’s only when these conversations extend to giving parents with fewer resources more options that it becomes a debate.

To suggest that charter schools that locate in low-income neighborhoods to give parents choice are perpetuating segregation is just a veiled attempt to undermine the idea of school choice. Segregation is a purposeful and willful effort to separate individuals. At its worst, it creates a socio-economic chasm between white and Black, rich and poor. While the charter sector is not void of racial issues and tensions, the notion that charter schools are driving segregation is baseless. The real culprit is a society that creates a manifest destiny for impoverished children of color by denying their parents the right to choose a high-quality education – be it public charter or public district. Stop blaming the symptom and focus on the virus that caused the disease.

This Article was first posted on http://www.k12dc.education

Should I make my kids participate in the school lunch program as a form of class solidarity?

My kids absolutely refuse to eat the hot lunch at school. Whenever we talk about it, they curl their little noses, roll their eyes, and act as if even considering school food is the funniest joke I’ve ever told.

They say they resist because the lunch is gross, which it usually is, but I suspect there is something more to the story.

When I visit their school in the morning, I notice a small population of students in the cafeteria eating breakfast. It looks to me that it’s mostly poor kids eating.

At lunchtime, it’s the same thing.I’m bothered by the question about whether or not eating at school has become a marker of class?

I could be wrong. I might be presuming too much. How do I know the kids are poor?

When I visit, I bring Subway for my kids, and there are always affirming comments from their friends who are opening up bright colored lunch totes full of deceivingly packaged not-really “organic” foods. (Yes, there are some pre-peeled mini-carrots in there, but often it just looks like more expensive crap with copywriting on the labels meant to make us feel like good parents. “No corn syrup!” “No GMOs” “No artificial colors!”)

Back in my school days when prophets rode dinosaurs, it was the poor kids who brought their lunch from home. When they fell behind on lunch payments, or their parents forgot to turn in paperwork, they would miss out on the majestic grandeur of Thursday’s doughy, saucy, tangy cheese pizza that we all coveted.

Maybe this isn’t your pet issue. Schools have real issues like violence, bullying, sexism, low test scores, big class sizes, and small overall budgets, so, there’s that. It would be nice to improve school lunch – as Michelle Obama (we miss you!) did, but is it a priority worth discussing?

Hell yeah.

First, as a parent, I know I should work hard to make sure my kids understand class and fight its social trappings.

That’s for me to teach. It was easier with my oldest son because he was on the free lunch program, as were most of his friends, so we didn’t have to discuss it. I’ve learned so much since then about how classism kills the dream of public schooling. If communal eating is an issue, it’s one we can fix.

Second, the food program itself is a shame-and-blame system.

I’m writing this message today because my wife received a call from our district saying we were behind on our lunch payments. Several times a year we’re contacted about a ghost account even though we’re not on the program. When you’re account is due our district sends text messages robocalls, and collection calls from live humans.

I know they’re doing their jobs, but they act like a terroristic bag of dicks when they come for their money.

Is this really what we’re doing these days? Are we ok with harassing poor parents for chump change?

Even worse, in some cases, we’re ripping the trays of food out of the hands of children when their parents haven’t paid. The food goes in the trash, and the kid gets a cheese sandwich.

That makes me want to cry.

Can we see a way to feed ALL children in a country that throws away more food than some nations consume? In a country so awash in food that we can fork over billions of dollars to a diet industry, it is a failure of morality and adult politics that we can’t do the right thing.

 Third, our sub-zero lunch budget traps our schools into buying eatable horseshit.

The debt our district was trying to collect today was a mere $1.25. A kid in our son’s class checked our son’s name on a breakfast form instead of his own, and the total was a stinking $1.25.

What on Earth can you feed a growing child for $1.25 in 2017?

Eons ago when I first visited a central nutrition center for public schools, I found the answer to that question.

I noticed the district-owned large ovens, soup kettles, and industrial kitchen assets that were collecting dust. In the room, next door poorly paid women with hairnets and gloves were dropping pre-cooked finger foods into plastic trays that moved quickly down a conveyer belt and into boxes headed for schools.

When I asked about the process district staff told me it was wholly a matter of budget.

The cost per meal needed to be so low that it would attract vendors like Tyson foods who offered such delicacies as hormone-laden chicken nuggets formed into the shape of farm animals. Our average per student meal was below $2.00. Two districts over in Minnetonka that cost was closer to $10.00. They had sushi, fresh fruit, and salads because their students could afford to pay for lunch.

Not only are lunch budgets inequitable between rich and poor districts, but food portions within a district can also be a problem too.

I met a principal in an impoverished North Minneapolis school who privately told a group and me that she discovered the nutrition center was giving her 8th graders the same portions as the kindergarteners, but 8th graders the district’s more affluent K-8 schools were given more substantial age-appropriate portions.

We were incredulous. On top of every other inequity we layer on to schools, we let hungry kids be the hungriest when they’re poor? Sadly, it was true.

Finally, the food waste is outrageous, and adults are the problem.

We aren’t teaching eating expectations, manners, and skills. The kids I join for lunch start with the sweetest thing on their tray; usually, some plastic wrapped bullshit that looks like it came straight from Miss Debbie’s factory.

From there they may take a bite or two out of their entree, and then throw away full cartons of milk and untouched fruit. I blame staff and parents for that one.

I’ve visited schools where the lunch period was an extension of other learning periods. It wasn’t a free-for-all. Some parents might fight me on this one, I know. I can hear the protests about how kids need to be kids, and how they need free-time to be wild, loud, and childish.

Wherever you are working today, look at the co-worker who gets on your last nerve. That person had parents like the ones I just described.

I will continue to work on my kids’ attitudes about eating at school, and not participating in a class-based demarcation between those who bring home food and those who don’t.

I will keep visiting and modeling lunchtime behavior for my kids, and for their classmates who can’t get enough of me (I’m the cool Dad, sorry if you’re not) when I join them.

And, for the love of God, I will keep yelping and write about the fact that we feed American children like little prisoners.

Let’s stop that.

This article was first published on Huffingtonpost.com