Biden linkage of school lunches to LGBTQ agenda holds low-income kids 'hostage': critics
"This administration believes children belong to them, not parents, and wants to ensure the next generation is confused about its gender," said Marc Little.
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The Biden administration's controversial new mandate tying school lunch funds to the implementation of its transgender policies will primarily hurt low-income and minority students, according to experts and community activists.
"Holding the lunch money of low-income and underprivileged kids hostage in order to advance a woke gender orthodoxy shows precisely the lengths to which the president will go to ensure his pet policies on 'gender identity' are rammed through American lunchrooms, classrooms, bathrooms, dorm rooms, and sports teams," said Sarah Parshall Perry, senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
Perry was referring to the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), an agency within the Department of Agriculture (USDA), announcing last month that it will extend its interpretation of prohibitions on sex-based discrimination contained in Title IX to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 forbids sex-based discrimination in any educational institution that receives federal money.
Because the USDA provides federally subsidized school lunches nationwide, schools will now need to comply with the administration's LGBTQ policies in order to maintain the federal funding.
Schools that receive funds from FNS must also "investigate allegations of discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation," the agency said in its announcement. "Those organizations must also update their non-discrimination policies and signage to include prohibitions against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation."
The USDA manages the National School Lunch Program, which fed about 30 million students a day before the COVID-19 pandemic upended school schedules. Under the program, low-income children are eligible to receive reduced-price or free meals at school.
The new interpretation of Title IX will mean that schools can lose funding for such programs if they don't implement transgender-inclusive policies, which often include rules allowing transgender students to use the bathroom and locker room of their preferred gender.
"This is child abuse and social engineering that school districts and parents have to stand up to," said Marc Little, a California-based lawyer and pastor who started a charter school in Los Angeles comprised of mainly black and Hispanic students. "The harm will beset children of color in particular."
While researchers and federal auditors have long documented the waste and inefficiencies in federal meal programs, studies also show they can improve the health and classroom performance of students.
But according to some experts, the administration's new mandate prioritizes ideology and politics over trying to improve school meal programs for those in need.
"Instead of focusing taxpayer resources to serve children in need, the administration is coercing schools to adopt dangerous policies, such as allowing biological males to use girls' bathrooms and locker rooms, in order for schools to participate in federal meal programs," said Jonathan Butcher, an education expert at the Heritage Foundation.
"This is a rejection," he added, "of the original purpose of these meals — to serve children from low-income families who may not otherwise have food to eat — and an effort to force educators to adopt a far-left ideology that conflicts with some of the most fundamental truths in science regarding the differences between males and females."
Last month's announcement by the USDA builds on an executive order signed by President Biden on his first day in office declaring laws that prohibit sex-based discrimination, including Title IX, also "prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation." The order permits transgender students to play organized sports with either sex and use male or female bathrooms.
Some states are already preparing to take legal action against the administration's rule changes. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R), for example, has threatened a lawsuit. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has also indicated the Sunshine State won't comply.
When asked for comment, White House Assistant Press Secretary Kevin Munoz pointed Just the News to a tweet he sent out Friday.
"The governors of South Dakota and Florida are making a cheap, inaccurate assessment of a policy that ensures that all students, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation, can get food at school," wrote Munoz. "Either you want all kids to have access to safe and healthy school lunches or you do not, and our hope is that every leader would be on the side of feeding kids."
However, this issue is much bigger than school lunches and transgender policies, according to Little.
"You need to zoom out the lens," he said. "This administration believes children belong to them, not parents, and wants to ensure the next generation is confused about its gender. This adds to the breakdown of the nuclear family, which is in part, if not primarily, why we see these young men shooting up schools, the majority of them without fathers."
If parents "want to discuss sexual orientation and identity with their kids, that's the parents' choice," Little added. But the Biden administration's policy changes "go against the inherent right of parents to govern the culture that their children should be exposed to."
He explained that school districts will "bow" to the mandate and that children aren't going to go without free or reduced-price lunches, but they'll be exposed to a range of sexual and otherwise provocative content that will have long-term consequences on young and impressionable minds.
"Parents send their kids to school for reading, writing, arithmetic, and they send them under the notion that they are safe," added Little. "What we are discovering is that while they may be physically safe, they are not emotionally, spiritually, or psychologically safe with these policies being implemented."
A USDA official told Just the News that the purpose of its May 5 announcement is to ensure equal treatment and prevent discrimination.
"The USDA is committed to treating everyone with dignity and respect," the official said. "No student or family should be forced to go hungry due to discrimination."
The department "is taking steps to prevent LGBTQI+ Americans from experiencing discrimination when they access federally funded food and nutrition services," the official added. "The change gives recourse for LGBTQI+ Americans who experience discrimination by or within a Food and Nutrition Services Program. If discrimination does occur, that person can now file a complaint of sex discrimination — nothing more."