A School Lunch Denied Prompts Powerful Action In A World Of Words

Play associated audio

If someone is outraged these days, they often blog about it, or post a tweet in righteous indignation. Parents urge children to use their words, and in the news business, we certainly believe in the power of words and information.

But you may wonder these days if some people confuse posting with taking action. Pretty or pungent rhetoric can grasp a few seconds of attention, then — just evaporate.

Amanda Keown of Dowagiac, Mich., was outraged this month when a cafeteria worker at the Dowagiac Union High School told Keown's 16-year-old son, Dominic Gant, that he couldn't eat the school lunch that day because he owed $5 to the school's food service.

He offered to give them the $2 in his pocket, and bring the rest the next day; they refused. In fact, he says they took his tray and threw his pizza lunch into the garbage.

Dominic Gant called his mother, who picked up her son and took him to lunch. "He was embarrassed," Amanda Keown said. "He was also hungry! And I was very, very mad."

Imagine the anger of a parent who feels that her child has been humiliated by his school. But Amanda Keown didn't just pose an impassioned, outraged tweet or vent steam on Facebook. She didn't just yelp on Yelp.

She returned to the school and discovered that the bill for her son's $5 balance had been sent only that day. So she paid them $60 for her son's small debt, and those of 18 others, too, so no other student would be embarrassed in the same way as her son and go without lunch. She says, "I hope they can enjoy the rest of the year without fear."

Dowagiac Union Schools Superintendent Mark Daniel did not respond to our calls. He posted a message on the school's website saying that the employee who shoveled Dominic Gant's lunch into the trash (which was required by state health codes), worked for the food vendor, not the school district. Daniel wrote that they "deeply regret" what happened; and that "we are a compassionate and caring school district that truly believes every student matters."

Dominic Gant will learn, in high school and in life, that even the best people make mistakes. But he may also learn from his mother's example. Amanda Keown took her outrage and turned it into doing something practical, simple and useful for her son, and the sons and daughters of others.

As she explained, "Sometimes you have to step in."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

He Died At 32, But A Young Artist Lives On In LA's Underground Museum

When Noah Davis founded the museum, he wanted to bring world-class art to a neighborhood he likened to a food desert, meaning no grocery stores or museums. Davis died a year ago Monday.
NPR

The Strange, Twisted Story Behind Seattle's Blackberries

Those tangled brambles are everywhere in the city, the legacy of an eccentric named Luther Burbank whose breeding experiments with crops can still be found on many American dinner plates.
NPR

Trump Surrogate Tweets Cartoon Of Hillary Clinton In Blackface

Pastor Mark Burns mocked Hillary Clinton with a cartoon that read, in part, "I ain't no ways tired of pandering to African Americans."
NPR

Listen: 'Web Site Story,' NPR's Musical About The Internet — From 1999

Found in our archives: an Internet-themed remake of West Side Story from the dot-com bubble era. It begins with Bill Gates and features the sound of a modem but isn't as obsolete as you might expect.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.