An Ohio primary school student was denied his preferred lunch in front of his classmates by school cafeteria staff because his lunch funds were in the negative—on his worst birthday ever.
“I got my cheesy breadsticks and put in my number,” 9-year-old Jefferson Sharpnack told News 5, “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.”
What Jefferson got instead of his favorite breadsticks was an “alternative lunch.” It is Green Primary School’s district’s answer to lunch while their caretakers are behind on their school lunch payment.
Jefferson’s Grandmother, Diane Bailey who takes care of him and his two brothers had received a notification on August 30 that the child’s balance was $9 in the negative. She called the school and thought she had everything straightened out. However, because the school was behind in their accounting updates, Jefferson’s account was not updated timely.
“In my mind, he didn’t owe anything. I owed the money, the parents, the school district,” Bailey said. “And my other question is, if they take the food off of your tray, they have to throw it away. 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.”
Krista Seals, the school principal told News 5 the school’s staff are working on a solution: “We have spoken with our cafeteria staff already about how to handle things, maybe differently and continuing to work with this family in particular as well.”
This incident is not a solitary one. Parents across the country are living in fear of being reported to social service agencies for neglect if they don’t comply with school lunch regulations.
Parents Tardy With School Lunch Money May Face Neglect Charges
In a recent case, Union County Schools in Blairsville, Georgia, sent a letter notifying families that they will be reported to the government if students rack up charges for failing to pay lunch money to school, the Epoch Times reported.
A concerned parent flagged the letter, which lays out a concerningly low threshold for reporting families for government intervention.
“Students who are unable to pay for their lunch at the time of meal service will be allowed to charge a meal,” the letter from the school system’s nutrition department says. “After the student has incurred charges of $20, the student will receive an alternative lunch.
“If the student’s charges become excessive, at the discretion of the school principal and social worker, the Union County Division of Family and Child Services may be contacted in relation to potential student neglect.”
Parental rights advocate Seraphim Schwab expressed concern with the school’s tactic to The Epoch Times.
“The letter is clearly a strong-arm tactic to get parents to pay them the balance that they are owed. Maybe the students are being bullied and getting their lunch money stolen. To trigger an anonymous report and prompt law enforcement to come to their house is very concerning and needs to stop,” Schwab said.
Epoch Times Reporter Patrick Howley contributed to this report