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DOWAGIAC, Mich. (WBND) — A Michigan student says he was humiliated when school officials took away his lunch because there wasn’t enough money in his account. After his mom heard what happened, she took matters into her own hands.

“It was really embarrassing, especially in front of the whole class,” said Dominic Gant, a junior at Dowagiac Union High School.

On Friday, Dominic was served his normal cafeteria lunch, but just as soon as he was served, his lunch was taken away.

Dominic had an outstanding balance of less than $5 in his lunch account. His high school, like many other schools, has a policy that denies a hot lunch, and sometimes any lunch, to students who can’t pay.

“I was appalled that he was denied lunch and his lunch was taken out of his hands over $5,” said Amanda Keown, Dominic’s mom.

She was so upset her son was sent home hungry, she immediately contacted the school. They told her the balance doesn’t matter, even if it’s a small amount.

“She asked me where is the cutoff, where do you draw the line with the charges, when do you say no more? And I said there shouldn’t be a line,” says Keown.

So she took matters into her own hands. She didn’t want to see another student be sent home hungry, so she paid off every student’s outstanding balance in the entire high school.

“I realize I didn’t have to do that but I don’t want another kid going through what my son went through,” said Keown.


  • rb.moffett@verizon.net

    Among the myriad deficiencies that have ruined our school systems, are the “education Nazi’s” that inhabit school administrations are simultaneously uncaring, arrogant, unreasonable,uncompromising and disengaged from reality

    • James Regal

      its on both sides… tyring to keep up with all the hands outs and freebbys nowadays is why students cant learn anything anymore!!!! to much wasted time….

    • Josephine Buchanan

      well said. No child should be denied a lunch because they cannot pay for it. The school gets money for each child enrolled and that should cover lunch as well as the poor education they get. In fact I think we overpay the school systems.

      • Glenn casey

        The school does not get the money. The county you live in gets the money and it then goes to the school board. Which in turn uses it to pay every single employee in the school system. Teachers do not make a lot of money because school systems do not have a lot of money, there is always a budget shortfall. Free lunches and reduce lunches are available for those who apply and qualify.

    • kurry

      In real life if you dont have enough money for something you cant get it…its called real life –Its the mothers own fault if she had enough money to buy everyones lunch why didn’t she make sure hers sons account was paid up to begin with. Shes not owning her responsibility then blaming the school.

      • athynz

        Perhaps she wasn’t aware of the balance? Does the school system notify the parents when the balance gets below say $10? Obviously she had the money and given the action she took it’s evident that she would have added money to the account if she had known. But sure, blame her for the asshattery of the school.

    • dave

      Kids have to have nourishment to be able to perform and learn effectively in school. That’s enough reason. The school is hindering the very purpose of learning by denying a lunch. Sad.

  • Debi Jenkins

    My sons school in Ashland va. Liberty ms gives a cheese sandwich or pb& j if a kid forgets lunch or $….no drink though water fountain is all kinda messed up!! The hs here says tough they don’t give them a thing! Why do we have the lottery here?? To help the schools!

    • gmama

      No the lottery is used to pay these school administrators hundreds of thousands of dollars to sit behind a desk and make stupid rules that in the long run has nothing to do with educating our children.

  • Dean

    I know we get low balance notices when it goes below a certain amount. If we as parents want to be irresponsible and ignore them it’s not the schools responsibility to look the other way until we meet our obligation. Lack of actions have consequences just as actions have consequences.

    • reeltime

      Thank you Dean for that realism. Some choose to chuck it in the the trash like junk mail. But then again, that is not the new world(US) order. We must provide for those that accept no responsibility.

    • Lamont

      My child’s school has the same pay for breakfast & lunch system but there is no notice when the balance is low or runs out so we have to be aware on our own to keep money on the account. Now when the account goes into the negative above $10 we are sent a notice home but my child still received a lunch & breakfast. So the responsibility is on both, the school & the parents

    • Dustin Cavanaugh

      She could afford to pay off everyone’s overdue balance. Money wasn’t an issue. She obviously was not aware and if they SHOULD NOT have given it to him in the first place just to take it away. Schools are run by idiots these days. Best way to learn is on your own. All the way to college. George Bush Jr went to freaking Yale. Come on now. He can’t even get his quotes (famous quotes at that) right.

    • Daniel

      Agreed it’s a shared responsibility of all three… The school to notify, the student to follow up and the parent to pay…but food isn’t ordered daily.. they didn’t order just enough for the kids that had money in their accounts… hold something else back….report cards…grades…diplomas…access to after school activities.. but not food… no kid should be unable to eat lunch..and if they gave him the food at checkout…then NO WAY should they have gone back and taken it from them later… that food wasn’t put back into the system.. it was thrown out..and wasted.

  • Jessica D.

    Sad ly kids are kids theyre not going to remember if their lunch acount balance is low. My nephew is in preschool and his Mother puts enough money into his acount to last him the month. But even after my sister told his teachers he wasnt allowed to have ice cream (Remeber he’s four) they still let him buy the ice cream causing his account to go over. Not everybody ignors the low balance notices. The kids are infromed and they are kids some tend to forget. I had a over draft of $10 and because i forgot to tell my dad hey i over drafted my food by 10 bucks they’d continue to charge us but we’d get a pbnj with milk, an apply and plan chips. WE didnt not get to eat. Thats stupid. Send a letter home my god! if they are that desprate for the money they deside oh no food for you. Its sad and stupid. But like everyone els its just my opinion.

      • Morning Dew

        True, however, my daughter eats lunch at 10:20 on B days. You can also pack a frozen waterbottle or an ice pack with an insulated bag. I pack my kids lunch everyday because the nutrition of school choices is not as good as the lunch I pack.

      • Keefer

        Well, I distinctly remember in the 70s when I was in elementary school, that we had the basic bologna and cheese with mayo sandwich. Packed in a metal or plastic lunch box at 7:30am. Eaten at 11am. And no issues with spoiled stuff. Especially if it was made cold from the fridge.

        I know this is beyond the issue at hand, but just wanted to chime in on that. My wife packs our son’s lunch with 50lbs of ice paks. LOL. Just not needed!

    • Josephine Buchanan

      Lori when I went to school lunch that we brought from home we considered good enough for us to eat. Today however the food nazi’s can deem a bologna sandwich, apple and chips to not be adequate as a lunch but if they supply the same kind of lunch it is okay. I am serious. I know of a parent who had DSS called because she packed her child a peanut butter sandwich, a banana, cookies and kool aid in a thermous. The school said the lunch did not meet dietary demands. Yet we see children being given one scoop of salad, half of a dry turkey sandwich (sometimes) and it’s okay to charge 5 bucks for that? We need to as parents start raising cain about what our children are being forced to endure at some schools.

  • bobby

    umm,the don’t offer students receipts so maybe the lunch people are just pocketing it?State laws require a receipt be given when a purchase is made yet schools here in va don’t/How can they even prove what is owed?

    • Sharon

      Bobby, Everything is itemize and it is right on the computer. Payments
      and purchases. Parents can apply for free lunch in case of hardship. This mom was wonderful to pay all outstanding balances. Whoever took the child’s lunch away is an idiot. However, we all know many parents are disengaged and need to pay closer attention to what is going on with their children. The person should not have taken the child’s lunch, but this has to be an isolated case. Or surely we would have heard more about it, because the school is the first to be blamed. It is never the parents fault or the young adult student’s fault. Let’s take some responsibility here people.

  • Tina Taylor

    I can remeber students that would need loose change from others or to sometimes share. some face financial hardships, others spend the money on other things. the parents should be able to prepay as we used to have lunch cards that families either bought or the cards went to those who qualified for reduced or free. student id’s can be scanned and used as debit cards for lunches and families who wish should be able to contribute to help with students who need the help IF they wish.

  • Mark Collins

    It was absurd to give the kid the lunch then take it back, but he also shouldn’t get a lunch without paying for it. I bagged lunch from elementary through high school and never had this problem.

    • Tessie

      I agree with you Mark … what kind of example does that set for the student thinking it is okay to still expect goods that are not paid for.

      • athynz

        So you are okay with the kid not being able to eat lunch? Okay real world lesson – some places have a “grace” period… like a mortgage payment which is due on the 1st but has a grace period of the 10th before any late fees are added. If someone misses or is late on a mortgage payment they are not kicked out of their home. However it’s a “lesson” for the kid to not have lunch due to a balance of less than $5.00 in the account? Something is not adding up.

      • Janice

        Athynz, there more than likely is a grace amount, and that kid appears to have exceeded it. School lunches only cost a couple of dollars in the first place, so the grace threshold is going to be quite low.

  • Ash

    I do believe that if a note had been sent home, or a reminder email were sent she would have replenished his account in time. It doesn’t sound like the mom/family has any issues paying. Besides possibly being hungry that does just sound embarrassing.
    No matter if the mom really didn’t see a memo or there not being something sent home the kid had to have had a horrible rest of the day.

    • Janice

      Aww. The poor “baby” (actually teenager) had a bad day. Is that really even a concern? People have bad days for lots of other reasons, too. Learn how to deal with a setback. I’m sure at least the kid knew his account was low, and he is old enough to do something about it – ask parents to replenish the account or bring his own.

  • jenny

    This story proved that the school system is more concerned with money than they are with people. In my school, TEACHERS would pay for a kid’s lunch so he or she wouldn’t have to go hungry. They wouldn’t expect a kid to pay for his parent’s error. Disgraceful. And over less than $5. Smh.

  • jenny

    And I MIGHT understand taking it away if the kid had started making a habit of it, but even then an alert administrator would have sent home a note saying “Dear Mrs So and So, Your son has accumulated quite the lunch balance. Are you aware of this situation?”

  • Ken Cissel

    The colossally stupid part of this whole incident is that they served him the food and then took it away which means they had to throw it out rather than let him eat it. It’s intensely spiteful to taunt him that way just so they can throw it out in front of him and since they had to throw it out then the cost of it couldn’t have been an issue to the school.

    • Tina (@MsBertina)

      So tre.. when they took the lunch back.. what did they do with it? throw it in the trash, I suppose or did they feed i to another student..I remember when I went to school.. if my parents was low in money I was sent many times with bag lunch but either parents now dont have the time or lazy at best. But it seem America is so spoil and refuse to go that extra step. So the blame is not only the school parents should share it as well.

  • Sharita

    An elementary school girl in New Kent had this situation happen as well and it was over less than $5. They allowed her to get the tray and then embarrassed her by taking it from her and throwing it in the trash in front of her classmates. Her mother was livid especially because they call her for everything else but didn’t see fit to mention a low balance. So her 3rd grade daughter went without eating that day. The school lunches are unhealthy but you can’t send lunch to school because someone down the hall has an allergy to whatever you’ve packed. It’s frustrating.

  • Cindy

    Let me just say one thing… I could care less if the kid owed $100 from two years ago..you should NEVER let a child go hungry no matter how old he or she is. Saying it’s ok to let a child go hungry because they didn’t pay is rubbish and those of you who think along these lines are just as sick and twisted as the schools. I wouldn’t have been so nice as this mom…i would have been taken out of the school via the swat team and bomb squad…Just sayin

  • Cindy

    Here is some insist on how it works around here. The workers eat for free for breakfast and lunch. They even bring in their adult children and neighbors and they eat for free. They do turn children away that can not pay. The children/the family are supposed to be notified when account is low before it becomes negative but rarely are. If you are in elementary school you get a paper notice sent home in folder after its negative. In older grades they are told after they are already negative. You can keep track online but only if you make deposits to account online for a fee. All the people placing blame on the parent need to realize just because your system of notification works doesn’t mean everyone else’s does.

  • Janice

    Before we bestow victim status on this kid, hero status on the mom, and heartless oppressor status on the school, let’s look at another side to this because there are always at least two sides to the story and we’re only getting one side here. In fact, there are more than two sides to this story, which I will explain further down.

    I’ll preface this discussion by stating that there is no mention of race, religion, ethnicity, or social or financial status of this student, so none is inferred here either.

    First, let’s discuss school policy. I’ll assume for the discussion that the school in this article has similar policies as the schools my children have attended. That may be the case, but there is no information in the article regarding the actual policy in place. Chances are that the school offers a meal assistance program to which parents/students can apply at the beginning of the school year. This program would have certain criteria that must be met in order for the student to qualify for free or reduced lunches. No mention is made that this student was enrolled in this program, so one can deduce that this student and his family did not qualify (basically, that they made enough money to be able to purchase lunches at full school price). The schools my children attended did, in fact, have a threshold past which the student would be denied lunch. This was usually around -$2 or -$3. How do I know this? Because occasionally, I would forget to replenish the account and my kid would come home and complain. (I’ll get back to this point, too.) The school normally informs the student as soon as the account goes into the negative, usually verbally directly to the student at this level (high school). The parents and the student should have been aware of the policy and the negative balance before this incident occurred.

    Second, the parents are ultimately responsible for the balance in the lunch account and the schools that my children attended have on-line systems that can be monitored regularly. Parents can pay on-line with a credit or debit card, or can send payment to school with the student. Blaming the school for denying lunch based on standard policy is inappropriate and serves to reinforce the ridiculous idea that a person is not responsible for his/her own actions or neglect of duty.

    Third, the student is a junior in high school – it will be a little over 1 year before he graduates and is expected to become a responsible member of society – and he can’t go a day without lunch??? Are you kidding me? Short of a medical reason for not skipping a meal (diabetes, for instance), he will be hungry, but he will live until he gets home and reminds his mom (maybe for the second, third, or fourth time like my kids had to sometimes) to put money in his lunch account. Also, knowing that his lunch account was in a negative balance, why didn’t he take a preemptive measure like stashing Pop-Tarts or granola bars in his pockets instead of pushing the limit of the school’s policy?

    Fourth, let’s think about the other parents that are affected by this – the ones whose kids’ delinquent accounts were paid off. Yes, this was a kind and generous act by the parent in the story, but it may not have been an appropriate or welcome gesture for the other parents. I will give you an actual, real-life, personal example of why I, personally, would be a bit ticked if this parent had paid off my kid’s account: At the beginning of the school year, my kid had a positive lunch account balance. I kept it replenished (sometimes after reminders from my kid who was either informed that the lunch balance was low, or was denied lunch) by using the resources available to me. Also at the beginning of the year, an assignment was given that required her to check a book out of the library. She did not return the book on time and incurred a library fine. The library also emails parents when there is an outstanding book or overdue charge. After several months of reminding her that she needed to pay her overdue charge, I informed her that I was not going to replenish her lunch account until the library charge was paid. When asked why, my explanation was that I was teaching her to be responsible and to pay her debts, and showing that there are consequences in not paying bills or debts. I would rather have her miss lunch now in high school to teach this lesson than to have her electric service shut off later in life. The school year is almost over and she still has not paid the fine, so her lunch account remains in a negative balance below the threshold where she could get a “grace” lunch.

    The only thing I find a problem with in this story is the fact that the lunch was given to him and then taken away. If the lunch lady made a mistake in giving him a lunch in the first place, then she should be held accountable and the student should keep the lunch. What else are they going to do with it? They can’t serve it to someone else once they’ve served it to him.

    • Janice

      I also stand corrected in that the only problem I had was with the school taking the lunch away after giving it to him. Another problem I have is with the mom in the article knowing how much she would need in order to pay off the other delinquent accounts. Why is the school providing that information?

      • Cindy

        You would be surprised what is freely given out. I personnel received a list of names, addresses, phone numbers and medical conditions of 25 children just by chaperoning a field trip. It’s crazy all the things I know that I shouldn’t just by visiting the school.

  • Cindy

    You do realize not recycling the lunches only happens when they are being watched. I have seen plates passed to the next child and it didn’t matter if it were already touched.
    Some of the comments crack me up. Just like almost everything there is policy and there is reality.

  • shirley

    so let me see if i got this right, our government can send millions and millions of dollars over seas to feed the hungry children over there but can’t foot the bill for a few lunches here where we as parents pay their salaries? strange country we live in, isn’t it? makes you wonder don’t it?

  • Janice

    From what I can understand from the article, this was not a deprived child. This “child” is a teenager who is probably about one year shy of being able to vote. He can skip a meal. If he were a deprived, destitute kid that qualified for the free lunch program, he wouldn’t need an account or an account balance. It actually makes me wonder why we’re crying about this “poor little kid” who isn’t really poor, little, or a kid. We can’t give everyone a handout. Let the kid grow up and take some responsibility for himself.

    • athynz

      You make it sound like the kid or parent is trying to take advantage of the system – and if I have the wrong impression I do apologize.

      However 1) Even if the kid is in high school he is STILL a kid and the parents STILL have responsibility for him.

      2) The point which we agree on – they handed him the lunch then took it away. That is pretty humiliating right there.

      3) Does the school have some sort of online notification system in place to let parents know when the balance is dropping? IIRC my daughter’s school did and even with that occasionally it did slip us by – she was getting some extra things on occasion which threw things off so this could have been the case here.

      Should it really matter if the child is “deprived” or not? Actually if the child was deprived enough to qualify for meal assistance this would not even have been an issue since the child would have had his meal in that case. You and others here also mention that missing a meal would not kill the kid – right but it could screw things up academically. There are classes that take place after lunch and between the humiliation of getting the lunch and having it yanked away and the lack of food the last thing that kid is concentrating on is his schoolwork.

      As you’ve said lunches are only a couple of bucks – that works both ways. Was not even saving that couple of bucks – as they had to throw the lunch out anyhow – worth it?

  • Marty

    Shame on them for giving him the lunch in the first place, yes the lunch is throw away. So is all the other food that that is left at the end of the day, who ever made the mistake should not have taken that lunch back.just tell the child to have money put on the account or bring cash the next day until his mon put money on the account.

    • Cindy

      Not sure what school system your children go to or if you hope the food is thrown away at th end of the day but I will tell you for a fact it isn’t where I work. The same food has been served for 3 days hard, dry and gross. Yes the kids have other choices but that left over food is saved. They have even revamped it and served for breakfast. I am betting the same happens in lots of school systems with budget cuts.

  • Ta

    i think the real problem is the fact it was placed in his hands and then taken away and probably thrown in the trash which served no purpose. He should have been told before he was given the lunch that he had a negative balance. That would have eliminated some of the embarassment that no child should have to go through

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