I was astounded when I read the story about Leigh Hauter, the Manassas Park English teacher who was reprimanded because one of his students, as part of an assignment, wrote a letter complaining about school lunches {front page, June 6}.

Mr. Hauter is what I would call a darn good teacher. He was trying to do what all educators should do -- teach daily living skills.

The fact that Jimmy Stuart, superintendent of the school system of Manassas Park, was embarrassed and chose to punish Mr. Hauter is ridiculous. Most school lunches are the pits, and most teen-agers do complain. As the student who wrote the letter noted, the "hamburgers" are not real hamburger these days; rather, they are stretched with soy.

The point of the assignment was to teach borderline students how to write a business letter about something important that would bring a response. Letter-writing skills are sadly lacking in today's audiovisual world -- and so is the intelligence of administrators such as Mr. Stuart. CYNTHIA C. LEGGETT Gaithersburg

Leigh Hauter tried to teach his students a lesson in letter writing, and it appears that the true lesson to be learned is "don't rock the boat."

Superintendent Jimmy Stuart needs to learn a more basic lesson in this bicentennial of the Constitution, that freedom of speech and freedom to petition for redress of grievances are rights that transcend personal embarrassment.

If these eighth-grade students come away with anything from this exchange, it will undoubtedly be a firm belief that protests are more likely to bring retribution than solutions. So much for the future of American democracy. WILLIAM J. CORK Gettysburg

It is an utter disgrace that a teacher was punished because he permitted his student to be honest. If it embarrassed the Virginia Department of Education, to whom the letter complaining about the poor quality of school lunches was addressed, then why doesn't the department do something constructive -- like improving the food -- rather than being vindictive to the youngster's teacher?

BETTE LOWENGRUBE Washington

As one who started writing letters to his home-town weekly newspaper more than half a century ago and who since that time has written letters to public officials, companies and organizations, I know (as Leigh Hauter has learned) that writing letters gets results -- but not always the results you expected.

The attitude of the Manassas Park school administration reflected in the Hauter incident brings to mind something else from my childhood -- the saying: ''It's not the school; it's the principal of the thing.'' If this incident is any indication of the attitude of school administrators elsewhere, we are all in deep trouble. WARREN BLANDING Washington