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Food fight continues at David Douglas

Whistleblowers say district shouldn't be charging kids who forget their IDs

Cafeteria workers are complaining that David Douglas School District is throwing administrative hurdles in the way of poor and hungry kids’ access to food.

Mark Morrel, an attorney for food service workers Trisha Williams, Deborah Rowley and Julie Passantino-Symonds, confirmed that the trio have been paying out of pocket for lunches and breakfasts for students who forget their ID cards.

“Between the three of them, they have spent several hundred dollars and there has been no offer to reimburse them,” Morrel says. “It’ll be close to $1,000 by the end of the school year.”

Williams said via email that they have testified to the school board about this, hoping for change.

“Due to the poverty level in the David Douglas School District, ALL of our students can receive a FREE breakfast,” she wrote. “However, we are made to charge our students an ADULT price of $2.10 if they forget their ID card.”

The issue, says DDSD spokesman Dan McCue, is that David Douglas High School has two cafeterias. Students could be double-dipping or others could be using their cards. Making sure they have their ID cards — which they are required to have at school — prevents fraud, McCue says.

“Federal law dictates that we give free meals only to those students who qualify, and we have to document that,” he says, noting that students are now allowed to show a picture of their ID on their smartphone. “If some other student had used their card or ID number earlier in the day, the student won't be able to get a meal, so matching up the right cards with the right kid is important.”

McCue notes that students who forget their ID cards can still receive free food by having an administrator come and authorize them.

Morrel says that process is too cumbersome.

He argues the problem could be easily solved by giving kitchen staff access to ID files on an iPad or similar, so they can see the picture of the student and confirm their identity.

“The school and the plaintiffs are working hard to fix this, but there’s a lot to be done,” he said. “It’s all about the kids, that’s what these women are worried about.”

Williams, Rowley and Passantino-Symonds have an outstanding whistleblower lawsuit against DDSD claiming retaliation after complaining that their supervisor is unfit for her position.

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Shasta Kearns Moore
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