Ohio school apologizes for controversial ice cream post: ‘Lacked empathy’

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – An Ohio elementary school churned up outrage this week with its policy for an “ice cream Friday” event.

On Thursday, Donovan Elementary School in Lebanon had shared plans for the following day’s event on social media, but explained that students without enough funds in their meal account, and those with negative balances, would be unable to participate.

“A student must have money on their account to purchase an ice cream,” the school said. “If a student has a negative balance they will not be able to purchase an ice cream even if they bring their $1 for ice cream.”

The original post went on to explain that students would not be allowed to purchase ice creams for fellow students who did not have enough money in their accounts.

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By Friday, the post racked up over 11,000 reactions, 13,000 comments and 5,400 shares. Of the 13,000 who commented, many were outraged over the policy.

“This is gross,” one person wrote. “I hope you realize how disgusting this is and stop punishing students over something they can not control. I’m repulsed. Do better.”

By Friday at 9:30 a.m., Donovan Elementary School addressed the initial post, saying it “lacked empathy.”

“We are sorry for the way the message was communicated,” the post read. “The wording lacked empathy and sensitivity for students who have low or negative meal account balances. We work very hard to provide school lunches to students by removing barriers and eliminating the stigma associated with the lunch assistance program. This post inadvertently sent the message that we would embarrass students or turn them away for an issue outside their control. The message fell short of our values as a district and we sincerely apologize.”

Donovan Elementary, however, did not indicate that it would walk back any policy prohibiting certain students from purchasing ice cream. Rather, the school wrote that its initial post was “intended to communicate to Donovan parents how several district-wide rules apply to a la carte items purchased in the cafeteria.”

A la carte items, like ice cream, cannot be purchased by students with negative or insufficient funds, and nor can they be purchased with cash, the school explained.

“We also do not permit students to purchase food for their classmates without prior parent permission,” the post continued.

Despite being prohibited from purchasing a la carte items, students at Donovan Elementary with negative or insufficient balances are still provided with meals, school officials confirmed.

“We sincerely apologize for the way this information was communicated,” the post concluded.

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Judging by the responses on Facebook, the school’s explanation still didn’t sit well with readers. And shortly after the school posted its update, the owner of the Mz. Jade’s Soul Food restaurant in neighboring Middletown confirmed she had donated $411.15 towards the lunch debt at Lebanon schools.

“I was a parent with kids with balances before and I couldn’t do nothing about it,” the restaurant’s owner posted to Facebook on Friday evening. “[S]o now that I could I did.”

“Have a blessed night,” she added.

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