What happened to Dominic Gant in the lunchroom of his Dowagiac, Mich., high school was unacceptable, if you ask his mother.
Gant's lunch was taken away by a school official and thrown in the trash -- in front of many of his classmates -- because the high school junior had an outstanding balance of $4.95 on his lunch account, according to Yahoo Shine. The policy at Dowagiac Union High School, similar to many schools, denies hot lunches to students with insufficient funds to pay for meals, according to ABC 57.
"It was really embarrassing, especially in front of the whole class," Gant told the outlet.
Amanda Keown, Dominic's mother, was not happy that her son was publicly shamed, and then went an entire school day without eating.
"The bottom line is that the food is taken from them," Keown told Yahoo Shine. "It doesn’t matter whose fault it is. The kids shouldn’t have to pay for that."
She put her money where her mouth is.
Keown paid off the outstanding lunch balance of every student at Dowagiac Union High School, which covered 19 students and totaled about $200, Fox News reports. Knowing there would likely be future instances similar to her son's if nothing changed, Keown also launched a Care2 petition page, pressuring Dowagiac Union Schools to have food set aside for emergency cases. More than 3,500 people had signed the petition as of Monday afternoon.
"I want guidelines set in place for all of the Dowagiac Schools. No child should be denied food EVER," Keown writes on the petition page. "Under no circumstances."
Mark Daniel, superintendent of Dowagiac Union Schools, told Yahoo Shine it's a "very rare situation" for a student not to receive their lunch, and there are policies set in a place to avoid such scenarios, especially with younger students. But he's grateful for Keown for shedding light on the issue so that those policies can be enacted consistently throughout the district.
Unfortunately, Dowagiac Union Schools isn't the first district to come under fire for denying meals to its students.
About 25 students in Massachusetts were denied hot lunches last spring because they did not have enough money for a meal. After being told by a school worker they would not be able to eat lunch, parents claimed some of their children were reduced to tears. Soon after, four employees held accountable at the middle school were fired.
But not every lunch controversy has ended badly.
Cayden Taipalus, an 8-year-old from Michigan, spotted a student in front of him in the lunch line with a cheese sandwich. The student had been denied the well-rounded meal Cayden's other classmates were enjoying, and Cayden didn't think that was right. So he began a fundraising page to make sure every one of his peers could depend on a hot lunch at school. Today, Cayden's campaign has raised nearly $32,000 -- enough to feed tens of thousands of meals to students.
To people like Cayden and Keown, the issue goes well beyond family ties. It's about community.
"I realize I didn't have to do that," Keown told ABC 57 of the check she gave to her son's school. "But I don't want another kid going through what my son went through."
To join Keown's fight to make sure every Dowagiac student has a lunch, sign the Care2 petition here.