PHOENIX – Phoenix mother Tara Chavez contends officials at Desert Cove Elementary School humiliated her son in the lunch line last week.
“He said, ‘Hey mom, I got stamped,” Chavez told BuzzFeed.
On the inside of the boy’s arm the words “LUNCH MONEY” was stamped in black ink, and the child was clearly embarrassed, she said.
“My kid’s really weird about stuff like that, so I asked if he was given a choice by the lunch lady and he said, ‘No, she just grabbed by wrist and put the stamp on,’” Chavez said.
“He was screaming and crying the entire time,” she added. “He was humiliated, didn’t even want me to take a picture of it.”
Chavez checked the boy’s lunch account online when she got home, and it had a 75-cent balance.
“I was surprised,” she said. “Normally I get a slip in his folder when he needs more money.”
The situation prompted Chavez’ friend to post about the episode on Twitter, prompting outrage online.
Like, y’all couldn’t send a note? Y’all couldn’t think for two seconds about the numerous references of branding someone as a stigma?
— TECHNOprah (@juanyfbaby) April 1, 2017
“Like, y’all couldn’t send a note?” Juan Fortenberry posted. “Y’all couldn’t think for two seconds about the numerous references of branding someone as a stigma?”
Chavez also emailed the school’s principal, Stacy Orest, who replied that the stamp is one of several ways the school reminds students and their parents about low lunch balances.
“(The lunch lady) doesn’t want the students to be embarrassed either so she is supposed to ask them if they want a stamp or a reminder slip,” Orest wrote.
“I think there’s a better way to communicate the message than stamping a child with the word ‘Lunch Money,’” Chavez said. “There’s a billion other ways you could do it that would be better than that.”
The situation snowballed over the weekend as Fortenberry’s post gained traction on Twitter, and district officials announced on Monday that they’re changing the policy.
Paradise Valley Unified School District spokeswoman Becky Kelbaugh told the Phoenix New Times officials at the affluent elementary will no longer use “reminder stamps,” and will instead send letters to parents about low lunch balances.
“It’s important to know that using a ‘lunch money’ stamp is not a district policy at PVSchools. It was a practice that had been used, but was discontinued years ago,” Kelbaugh said. “Administration at our schools regularly communicate with parents when a student’s lunch money balance is low. If there is no money left in the account, students are provided with multiple free lunches.”