There is no shortage of ethical challenges in a school nutrition setting. Raise awareness about these with members of your own team by discussing the following case study. A school district in an upper middle-class community has an enrollment of 5,000, with 12% of the students qualifying for free/reduced-price meals. Many of the school staff live in the district and/or have children that attend school in the district. The school secretary has received an application for free meals from the parents of a student who attends this school. As she looks over the application, she notes to her coworkers that she knows the family, that they live in a big house and drive an expensive car—she can’t imagine how they could qualify for meal program benefits. The secretary contacts the school nutrition director to ask what she should do with the application. She repeats her personal knowledge about the family. The school nutrition director instructs her to send the application to the School Nutrition Office in an envelope marked “confidential.” The secretary again grumbles about this situation to coworkers in the office. In this scenario, you previously worked in the School Nutrition Office, but now work in the same office as the middle school secretary. You are aware of the confidentiality requirements related to meals applications. What Should You Do? SUGGESTED TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION: • What aspects of this case study make you uneasy? Why or why not? • As described, are any of the actions illegal? Immoral? Could someone’s job be at risk? • What might the reaction be if details about this scenario were shared outside the department? How would reactions vary among school administrators/board of education members, the state agency, the media and parents? • Do we have a district or department policy that would apply to this situation? Does everyone know about it and adhere to it? • Does this scenario bring up other ethical challenges we should discuss? • How should we go about raising concerns or reporting incidents of unethical behaviors? What if we don’t all agree that an activity or behavior is unethical? • How would you answer the question posed at the end of the scenario? What Should You Do? Ethical Decision-Making In School Nutrition This ethical case study was developed for but may or may not be included in the final version of SNA’s What Should You Do? Ethical Decision-Making in School Nutrition training course (see page 44). The discussion questions included here are intended to help SN readers raise awareness about ethical dilemmas in the workplace. SNA’s programming goes further, guiding participants through a decision-making tree and providing other resources to build skills.
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