ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota school districts cannot block students from graduation ceremonies over unpaid lunch debt, Attorney General Keith Ellison said Wednesday.
Ellison issued a written opinion citing two state laws governing school lunches and lunch aid. He says participation in a graduation ceremony “cannot be restricted by your ability to afford your life.”
Ellison said his opinion comes at the request of Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker, and after Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid said some districts were blocking students with meal debt from participating in graduation ceremonies.
It also followed publicity over an $8,000 donation from Valerie Castile, mother of slain motorist Philando Castile, so that seniors at Robbinsdale Cooper High School in New Hope could graduate without debt.
That school said it has never blocked graduation participation over lunch debt.
The Education Deparment said it couldn’t immediately say how many districts might be restricting participation over lunch debt, but Ricker said the department gets calls each spring from families concerned about the issue.
“If we get those calls this spring, we now have the opinion of the attorney general,” she said.