Everything Kids

This School Put a 'Lunch Money' Stamp on a Student's Arm, and It's Not OK

An elementary school boy was humiliated by a "lunch money" stamp on his arm when his account balance fell, and now a picture of it is going viral.

What's with all the food-shaming going on in school cafeterias these days? A few months ago we told you about the little girl who was sent home from preschool with a "Red Alert" note after her mom packed her a homemade slice of chocolate birthday cake. Now an elementary school in Phoenix is being taken to task on Twitter for literally branding kids by stamping their wrists in order to notify parents about a low lunch account balance.

Say what?

Mom Tara Chavez told Buzzfeed she noticed a big stamp that said "lunch money" in all caps on her son's wrist when he came home from Desert Cove Elementary School last week.

"I was surprised," she said. "Normally I get a slip in his folder when he needs more money." Definitely not a cool move on the school's part. Which is why Chavez's friend Juan Fortenberry decided to take a picture of it and post it on Twitter, where it quickly began to go viral.

"My friend's son came home from school Thursday with a stamp on his arm that said "LUNCH MONEY" because his account was low," Fortenberry wrote in an additional tweet describing the incident. "Looks like shaming to me. 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?"

He makes a good point—why is public branding this school's preferred method of communication? It's 2017; how about an email alert or even a text? I get them from my doctor and dentist to confirm appointments all the time!

Fortenberry later told The Huffington Post that the photo of the stamp hit close to home, since he is a former reduced-lunch kid himself. "One thing I can never forget is always feeling lesser because I couldn't afford the 'cool' lunch items that kids would pay extra for, something like eating pizza every day," he explained. "The shame of not being as well-off as your peers was like a quiet hum to me. It wasn't piercing but I was hyperaware of it."

Pretty heartbreaking! But thanks to all his tweeting, the school has now posted a statement about the incident on its website in order to explain that using a "lunch money" stamp is not a district policy, but a practice that had been used, and then discontinued years ago.

"Unfortunately, the administrator was unaware of the practice and decided to use a stamp as another option at the beginning of this school year," it reads. "It was never the intention of Desert Cove Elementary School administration and staff to embarrass any student by using the stamp. Going forward, Desert Cove Elementary School will send a letter home notifying parents of low lunch balances."

Too little, too late? Sound off in the comments.

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and mom of two who writes about parenting and pop culture. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and then follow her on Instagram and Twitter.