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Free School Lunch Ends This Month, Contemplating Gun Safety, Protecting LGBTQ+ Students

For Many, Free School Lunch Ends This Month

June 30th will mark the end of a federal school meal program that has been in place throughout the pandemic. A product of COVID-19 waivers through the USDA's Summer Food Service Program, this initiative gave families access to free breakfast and lunch, regardless of financial status. Newsweek noted yesterday that the program has fed millions of students for two years now—but that Congress opted not to extend it further. Students from low-income families will still be able to apply for free or reduced price meals via the national School Lunch Program (NSLP). But the article notes that NSLP can be difficult to apply for, and doesn't consider cost of living differences between states—which could leave many children hungry. Writing for CT Insider, Emily DiSalvo, covers the impact of the program's end here in Connecticut, where over 40% of students qualify for either free or reduced price lunch. For some, because the waivers gave access to all, regardless of family income, it destigmatized the need for free meals. The end of the federal waiver program will also result in fewer meal distribution sites across the state, and will require students to eat on site, rather than take meals to go.

Legislators + Schools Contemplate Gun Safety

Over the weekend, a bipartisan group of US Senators struck an agreement on national gun control policies. CT News Junkie explains that it would dedicate funding in support of "red flag laws," which allow courts to seize weapons from people who are a danger to themselves or others; would restrict the ability of domestic violence abusers to purchase guns; would make it harder for youth under 21 years old to purchase guns; and would add funding for mental health services. The CT Mirror's coverage notes that these measures still fall short of finalizing long-sought-after reforms like universal background checks or a restriction on assault weapons. But the agreement is nevertheless a step forward for Connecticut's own US Senator Chris Murphy—a leading advocate of federal gun control legislation since the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012.

Here in Connecticut, a flurry of local efforts have aimed to make schools both more supportive of troubled students and more secure from violence. According to the Middletown Press, school superintendents at a virtual round table on Friday called for more funding and personnel to support troubled children. The article quotes the Superintendent of Bethel who also bemoans the lack of mental health personnel with which to staff the district’s five approved school-based health centers. Elsewhere, there have been serious debates on how to “harden” schools. Fox 61 and the News Times covered conversations in Brookfield, New Milford, and Regional School Districts 15, 16, and 18 about whether to arm school security officers. And audits of school safety and security protocols are being conducted in towns like Redding, New Milford, Brookfield, and Danbury. But a story in Education Week suggests that local efforts to “harden” schools may not be the answer. In fact, to many parents of color, increasing the law enforcement presence in schools creates more of a concern than a comfort.

Protecting LGBTQ+ Students

Yesterday, our national affiliate hosted an event titled, “Culture Wars: How We Protect LGBTQ+ Students.” Panelists included:

  • Arthur Woods, founder of Mathison and LGBTQ+ advocate

  • Colorado Senate Majority Leader Dominick Moreno

  • Dr. David Wallace, Former Dean, Relay Graduate School of Education and Founder of Awakening Minds, LLC

  • POLITICO's Bianca Quilantan (Moderator)

This important discussion covered the social, emotional, and academic consequences of Don't Say Gay legislation across the country; the impact of recent culture wars on the wellbeing of students who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community; the language we use to build inclusive environments; the fact that legislation cannot protect LGBTQ+ students unless it is accompanied by cultural shifts towards acceptance and understanding; and more! ICYMI, you can watch the recording here.

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