Wisconsin Parents, Students in Conflict With School District Over Call to End ‘Jesus Lunch’ at Park

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MIDDLETON, Wisc. — Controversy is stirring as officials with a Wisconsin school district have asked parents and students to discontinue their weekly “Jesus Lunch” at an adjacent park over their belief that the property where the event is held belongs to the district.

The “Jesus Lunch” began in 2014 as the parents of several students at Middleton High School decided to provide a free lunch in Fireman’s Park, which is adjacent to the school grounds. Students discuss a Bible topic during the lunch and attendance is voluntary.

According to reports, the weekly event began with 40 students attending and now has grown to 400 two years later.

But on Tuesday, Principal Steve Plank and District Administrator Don Johnson sent a letter to parents stating that the lunch violates district policy because it is allegedly led by adults, who also do not check in as guests at the school, and because food safety standards are not being met.

“Some students feel excluded or left out,” Plank told local television station WKOW. “We have students of different faiths—Muslim students or Hindu students or Jewish students—who feel like this is happening and it’s not for them. We’ve had some students that leave school early on those days; [they] maybe feel intimidated by people coming back in afterward.”

Parents assert that the park is public property and is consequently not subject to district requirements. They also note that they have a permit from the city. But the district says that the city leased the park to them years ago and therefore the rules are applicable.

“The parents contend that it is their First Amendment right to provide free food and hold a religiously oriented event on this property during school hours,” the letter stated. “The district believes that we have jurisdiction of this leased property, which is part of our campus.”

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“The question here is not us being in opposition to the school, but rather that we have a right to be in Fireman’s Park. Although the school district contends that it is school grounds because they have a lease, the public still has a right to use the park during school hours,” lunch organizers also said in a statement. “By law, the lease agreement between the city and the School District of Middleton does not privatize the park.”

One student who opposes the event launched a petition stating that parents should be forced to follow district guidelines. But another student then launched a petition in favor of the lunch, declaring that it should be allowed to continue.

The parent organizers state that they are not backing down and have obtained legal representation. The district has likewise contacted its attorneys, who are looking into whether or not the district has jurisdiction to impose its policies on the gathering.

“The district is currently asking our legal counsel to communicate and consult with the legal counsel of the Jesus Lunch organizers,” it said in an email on Friday. “The question at hand is whether or not [the district] has responsibility for the supervision of Fireman’s Park during school hours based on our 16-year lease with the City of Middleton.”

“To be clear, [the district] is not interested in litigation, and is committed to working collaboratively to find a solution that meets the needs of all parties,” the district continued. “We are interested in thoughtful and respectful dialogue. We do not intend to interfere with the Jesus Lunch, and we will continue to reach out to organizers to find an amicable resolution in the near future in the best interests of all of our students.”

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  • gizmo23

    “We do not intend to interfere with the Jesus Lunch”,

    So what is the problem here.? It sounds like they are working on a solution.

    • bowie1

      The uncertainty in the meantime.

    • Ax2root

      There is no problem that needs a solution.

      Freedom of assembly is constitutional and everything the parents are doing is legal and it is students FREE WILL

      • gizmo23

        Sorry minor children should never have complete free will

        • Ax2root

          They are under authority of their parents….not govt schools

          Everything this chikdren and parents are doing is LEGAL.

          DEAL WITH IT

          • gizmo23

            What if their parents say no. Does the school have the responsibility to enforce their wishes/
            BTW I see nothing wrong with the lunch thing happening. You assume everyone things like you want them to.

          • Ax2root

            Since everything being done is legal,I would submit that question to the lawyers.

            I don’t know the specifics in this case.

            I assume nothing. I saw the interview of the superintendent with the parents who correctly stood their ground regarding their legality to hold Jesus lunches at the public park with whatever students wanted the free food and Christian fellowship.

            It was the school system trying to interfere with parents.

        • Slidellman4life

          They are born with it. It’s why Adam and Eve sinned: God gave them free will because He wanted them to love Him freely and not be compelled like robots.

  • Michael C

    Hey! There’s some religious group at my kid’s school tempting her to join them by offering her free food!

    I’m betting this will end with the implementation of a closed campus.

  • Darah Gaz

    Everyone knows that if you say the word “Jesus” at a public school, America immediately becomes a theocracy.

  • Emmanuel

    Keep it up parents. You are doing a good thing.

  • Ron Jaeger

    Once again, progressives have gained control of government schools thereby attempting to supercede parental rights and feed their propaganda to students. Parents, you probably need to look deeply into the curriculum of this school in addition to CONTINUE TO PRESS FOR SHARING JESUS with those students interested.

    Time to start attending BOE meetings. Parents showing support for students should be embraced and thanked. What is the Superintendent hiding????

    May God guide and protect you in this spiritual battle!

    • Cady555

      Attempting to supercede parental rights? Like adults luring children out of school with promise of free food in hopes the kids will reject the religious teaching they learn at home from their parents?

      If it weren’t for double standards, these adults would have no standards at all.

  • Ax2root

    COMMENDATIONS to the parents who intelligently and legally are STANDING THEIR GROUND.

    What would Jesus do? He would feed all who are willing to receive both spiritual and physical food JUST AS THESE PARENTS ARE DOING.

    No one is forcing anyone to come.

    No one should force anyone to stay away.

  • Grace Kim Kwon

    US schools need the Lord Jesus the most. Sodomic culture rejects the Saviour and what is good.

  • Gott Mit Uns!

    Do kids not go to Sunday school anymore?

    • Cady555

      Their kids do. The point is to use the school to get unfettered access to other people’s kids.

      Why do you think they don’t have jesus lunches on Saturdays or jesus breakfasts on Sundays? The government through mandatory school attendance rules has gathered up other people’s kids in one spot, ripe for proselytizing.

  • Slidellman4life

    So you have a kid with a petition who opposes it.Why? He’s not a Christian?

    Someone needs to tell that little brat right now she’s going to be left out of a lot of things for the rest of their life and a silly exercise like a petition won’t change things.

    And the school district should mind its own business.

  • BarkingDawg

    I have an easy solution. The district just has to declare the school a closed campus. No kids allowed in the park during lunch hours.

  • Psygn

    Child predators with cheeseburgers stalking outside public schools to indoctrinate other people’s children.,

  • The school district is wrong. A lease does not convey ownership, and in fact, if the district did own the land, they would have shown proof. I would advise the organizers of this gathering to ignore the district and continue on.

  • Rosavera

    Of course, if this was not a Christian based lunch and didn’t have the name Jesus, then no one would oppose, and God forbid a Christian would actually oppose another religion’s lunch like this one…! The furor, the discrimination, the anger towards Christians for not bowing to the wishes of others. Hypocrites… thank God we have a wonderful God and no matter what they do they will NEVER take Him away from us… <