Lunch-line incentive program draws complaints

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For years, Woodrow Wilson Middle School has been rated among the top middle schools in Tampa.  Its success, some say, is due in part to awarding incentive cards.

They're a reward for achievement or improvement.  Kids who get one can go to the head of the lunch line.  Some call the ones in back, the "no-card kids."

"The no-card kids either have a 'C' or a conduct issue. They eat last," said parent Sonya Brown.  She believes the school should offer incentives, but not in the lunch line.

Brown says her daughter Celia and her friend Alyssa Croker, budding musicians and eighth graders at Wilson, brought the issue home. They're concerned about the no-card kids.

"Everyone knows that they're in line because they got a 'C.' Like, it's not private at all. And it's really embarrassing for them, I think," Alyssa Croker said.

Crocker says, some days, the kids at the back of the line only get 10 minutes to eat -- and the kids that tend to be there are from poorer families.

"We could be putting the kids who need to be eating most at school and only giving them 10 minutes," said Celia Brown.

The principal, Colleen Faucet, declined an on-camera interview, but told me she will ensure that all students have ample time to eat.

Faucet says incentives are made to motivate students. The lunch card method isn't going to hit every single kid.  But she says out of 600 students, only two parents have come to her with concerns.

Brown hopes as more parents learn about the no-card kids,  the long-coveted incentive cards will be limited to things like free admission to sporting events or homework passes, not where kids fall in the lunch line.

The girls and their parents plan to take the issue to the school board next Tuesday night.