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Anti-lunch shaming provisions included in omnibus E-12 education bill

The House Education Policy Committee reviewed and heard testimony on the omnibus E-12 education policy bill, a delete-all amendment to HF163, during a remote meeting Friday.

The proposed legislation, sponsored Rep. Cheryl Youakim (DFL-Hopkins), the committee chair, was tabled, with plans to take additional amendments and action on the bill May 6.  The companion, SF3034, awaits action by the Senate E-12 Finance and Policy Committee. Sen. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) is the sponsor.

Described as a slimmed down version of a typical education policy bill, Youakim said it had been her hope for the committee to accomplish more this session, “but the pandemic changed that in the blink of an eye.

“Next year we will have to have a laser focus on policies that will help our students who will be facing increased challenges, and may have fallen even further behind,” she said.

The proposal includes several provisions that would strengthen laws prohibiting schools from using demeaning practices to collect lunch debt. 

“It’s a provision that has had a very long, hard journey, but has come to a resolution,” Youakim said.

The bill would require districts to develop and post a school meal policy on their websites that outlines what happens when a student does not have money to pay for their meal. The policy would need to be well defined and prohibit lunch shaming or other means of ostracizing the student. It would also lay out how overdue money is be collected and would require that those conversations be only between school staff and a parent or guardian.

Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker applauded the inclusion of the respectful meal language, saying that “punishing students for adult issues is not acceptable.”

However, she expressed disappointment over the omission of a previously considered measure that would have added tribal nations to the list of entities that may receive certain private educational data on tribally enrolled or descendant students in order to support the students’ academic pursuits.

Other policy proposals include:

  • requiring education records to include pupil withdrawal agreements when a student transfers to a new school;
  • requiring schools to report on pupil withdrawal agreements to the Department of Education;
  • requiring mental illness training for teacher license renewals;
  • protecting American Indian students’ right to wear tribal regalia or objects of cultural significance at graduation ceremonies;
  • requiring teachers and principals to be evaluated on their cultural responsiveness as part of teacher development and evaluation and principal evaluation;
  • requiring that school boards’ long-term strategic plans include strategies for providing students access to culturally relevant curriculum and promoting a culture that retains qualified racially, ethnically and linguistically diverse staff;
  • clarifying that contracts for fuel or transportation are not subject to the two-year term limitation for most school district contracts for services or goods;
  • increasing the earliest that a school district may deliver a notice of an upcoming operating referendum election from 30 to 45 days prior to the date of the election; and
  • setting a statewide goal for increasing teachers of color and American Indian teachers by at least 2% per year.


What's in the bill?

The following are selected bills that have been incorporated in part or in whole into the omnibus E-12 education policy bill:


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