School Stamped 'I Need Lunch Money' On Student's Arm When His Account Ran Low

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School sends third grade student home with a stamp on his arm saying he needs lunch money

An Alabama school chose a rather shame-y way of notifying a child’s parents that his lunch account was low on funds. Instead of using any number of more discreet methods, the cafeteria employee stamped his arm with the information for anyone to see. If that doesn’t sit right with you, you’re not alone. His parents weren’t any too pleased. Not that anyone could blame them.

According to ThinkProgress, a Gardendale Elementary School third grader was sent home with a stamp on his arm, which read “I need lunch money.” His father, Jon Bivens, was stunned to see it. “I can’t think of one logical reason why anyone would stamp a note on a child’s arm,” he said. “We have so much technology and multiple ways to communicate.”

Not to mention, Bivens claims the child’s account still had $1.38 left on it, so it’s not as though it were in the negatives and dire methods had to be employed. As he says, regardless, there are a number of other ways to let him know his 8-year-old needs more lunch money.

Nez Calhoun, director of public information for Jefferson County Schools, says, “They get a stamp to notify the parents. We’ll call, write letters — whichever way — but all children get stamps when [their accounts] are at zero dollars to get awareness up.”

Um, the awareness of their classmates and friends who can possibly mock them? Sounds like an excellent plan, director of public information. Unbelievable.

Because, here’s the thing, Nez Calhoun. We have this magical innovation in 2016 called email. We also have special phones that can receive both calls and texts. Welcome to the future! We no longer need to brand little kids with a stamp that might get them teased or make them worry. Especially since they’re not responsible for refilling those accounts to begin with. Their parents are. So how about we harass them instead?

Now, of course, this kid’s lunch account needs funds in it and his parents can’t expect the school to front him money for too long, but again, there are so many other ways to convey this information. Making it that visible is just thoughtless and cruel. This child is not in kindergarten where half the class is not yet literate and the other half wouldn’t be able to make sense of the stamp anyway. He’s in third grade. I have a third grader and, trust me; this is not an age where a child wants to be set apart in any way. Kids this age notice every little thing.

Not to mention, emails, calls and letters home aside, just verbally telling a child his lunch account needs more money is often enough. I know when we forget to check and re-up their accounts, our kids are only too happy to yell at us that the lunch lady told them their accounts are low. No shame stamp necessary.

For Calhoun’s part, she seems more upset that Bivens went to the news before going to the school. “It is extremely unfortunate that this happened to that student. I feel for the parent, but we didn’t know anything about it until we saw the story in the paper.” That is a bit gnawing, but I can’t imagine it’s any more upsetting than Bivens seeing his son shamed by way of a stamp on his arm instead of a discreet note going home first.

Sorry, school. This one’s on you.

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