Birthdays are those special milestones that remind us how we successfully completed another trip around the sun. Children, however, are most joyous when their birthday comes around because that means having a party and a cake.
A boy named Jefferson Sharpnack from Green, Ohio, was looking forward to celebrating his 9th birthday. He was at school that day and hoped to have some fun with his schoolmates. Little did he know, however, that what was supposed to be a special occasion would turn into a sad day for him.
During the school break, he went to the school cafeteria to have his lunch. But just as he got it, the food was abruptly taken away from his tray. The reason? His grandmother failed to pay the $9 bill for school lunch.
“I got my cheesy breadsticks and put in my number,” the boy told WEWS. “And when I was going to check out, the lunch lady didn’t say anything, took away my cheesy breadsticks and sauce, put them over there, and took out bread on cheese from the fridge and put it on my tray.”
When he returned home later that day, Jefferson told his grandma that he had the “worst birthday ever.”
In a statement released regarding the incident, the school stated that “students who are $15 or more in debt” are given an alternative lunch.
Jefferson’s grandma, Diane Bailey, said that when her grandson came home with a notice about his lunch debt, she called that same moment and believed the issue was resolved.
No matter the debt, the school was required to provide Jefferson with free and reduced lunch. Instead, they publicly shamed him and made him feel bad in front of the rest of the students.
“In my mind, he didn’t owe anything,” Diane said. “I owed the money, the parents, the school district.
“If they take the food off of your tray, they have to throw it away,” Diane added. “You would take the food off a tray and you can’t re-serve it? You’re going to throw it away and not feed the child? That doesn’t make sense to me.”
This isn’t the first case of parents speaking out about their children being “lunch shamed” at school.
As per the Washington Post, the district superintendent announced Monday that there would be a change in policy: “All students enrolled in PreK through twelfth grades will receive the standard lunch for the day at their respective buildings regardless of their account balance.”
A spokesperson for the district further said that “our administration felt strongly that the time to make a change in our lunch guidelines was now and the change took place today.”
We are so very sorry that Jefferson’s birthday didn’t turn out as planned and we hope no other child would be “lunch shamed” ever again.
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Love and Peace