By Corinne Murdock |
Arizona schools that prohibit students from using bathrooms or locker rooms, or joining sports teams designated for the opposite sex, will likely lose their federal funds for school meals. Federal dollars reimburse schools for qualifying meals, and give low-income students free or reduced-price meals. Throughout the pandemic, schools were able to provide free meals to all students and receive greater reimbursements.
The policy change came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) announcement last month, clarifying that protected classes within anti-discrimination policy included sexual orientation and gender identity. Schools that fail to update policies and signage to comply with the USDA policy would result in the loss of FNS funding.
The USDA claimed that the move aligned with President Joe Biden’s Executive Order on Preventing and Combatting Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation.
Although the USDA notification made no mention of bathrooms, locker rooms, or sports teams, Biden’s executive order did in its first few lines.
“Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports,” read Biden’s order.
According to the latest reports from the Arizona Department of Education (ADE), about half of Arizona’s children rely on free or reduced lunches. It is likely that number increased with the financial stresses due to the pandemic and hiking inflation, as well as the influx of migrant children due to the border crisis.
Children are eligible for free meals if their family income is at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level, while reduced meals are available to children with family incomes between 130 and 185 percent of the federal poverty level.
The Arizona Senate Republican leadership issued a joint press release denouncing the USDA’s latest action. They criticized the Biden administration for prioritizing a political agenda above the wellbeing of children. The leaders contended further that no evidence existed for schools discriminating against children by denying them food over their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“The federal government is literally threatening to stop feeding the poorest of children if schools don’t allow boys in girls’ bathrooms, boys in girls’ showers, or boys on girls’ sports teams,” stated the Senate Republicans.
Arizona Senate Democrats responded that the Republicans’ dismay over children’s food supplies was really another opportunity to vilify transgender children. They insinuated that children were more worried about guns than they were their next meal.
“Vilifying trans kids during pride month is very on brand for Republicans but this is just a distraction,” stated the Democrats. “Children are worried about getting shot in their classrooms [sic] not their classmates [sic] gender identity.”
Senate Minority Leader Martín Quezada (D-Glendale) concurred, calling Republican leadership’s concerns “bulls**t.”
Earlier this year, Arizona banned males from competing in female sports. The law applies to both private and public K-12 schools, colleges, and universities in the state.
Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.