School changes lunch policy after taking away student's cheesy breadsticks on his birthday
Some schools make students wash tables, wear special wristbands or even throw their food away if they've racked up debt on school food. Video provided by Newsy Newslook
An Ohio school district has changed its lunch policies after a 9-year-old boy told local media that cafeteria staff swapped his chosen lunch on his birthday because he owed money on his account.
Diane Bailey said the ordeal started when her grandson Jefferson Sharpnack came home from Green Primary School on Aug. 30 with a note saying he owed $9 for his lunch account, WEWS-TV in Cleveland reported.
Bailey said Jefferson and his two brothers were supposed to be enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program, and the administration told her she could write a check to cover the debt until the paperwork was processed.
She believed her grandson was in good standing with the school, but on Tuesday, Jefferson came home and announced something had happened in the lunchroom that had made it his worst birthday ever.
“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," Jefferson told the station.
"He gets off the bus and he says, 'Grandma! Worst birthday ever!'" Bailey told WJW-TV in Cleveland.
"He was bullied. He was bullied by the school officials. He had his lunch removed from his tray at the age of 9."
On Monday, Green Local Schools district superintendent Jeff Miller announced that all students enrolled in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade would be served the standard lunch for the day "regardless of their account balance."
"We are sensitive to the financial hardship families incur and challenges presented due to the cost of school breakfast and lunches," Miller said in a statement. "Our staff, in coordination with Family Support Specialists, will continue to work with families to ensure they have access to all available resources to assist with purchasing school meals."
Bailey said that although Jefferson's 9th birthday started off poorly, it ended with dinner at his favorite spot and cupcakes, WJW-TV reported.
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The Green, Ohio, school district is not the first to be criticized for its policies regarding school lunch debt.
In May, a Rhode Island school district changed its policy after facing backlash for a plan to serve students who owe lunch money sun butter and jelly sandwiches instead of a hot meal.
Following widespread criticism – and multiple rejected offers for charitable donations – a Pennsylvania school district apologized in July for threatening to send children to foster care over unpaid lunch debts.
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