The Short of It
File this under "What were they thinking?" An Alabama cafeteria employee stamps a student's arm with a message for his parents that says he needs lunch money.
For an 8-year-old boy in the third grade, who can read, it was likely rather embarrassing to walk around school branded with an "I need lunch money" stamp on his arm that inexplicably featured a smiley face!
His parents were understandably upset that the school chose to humiliate their child, too. The boy's father, Jon Bivens, said to AL.com, "I thought it was a good job stamp." But a closer look revealed the school had shamed his son.
"I can't think of one logical reason why anyone would stamp a note on a child's arm. We have so much technology and multiple ways to communicate," he told Think Progress.
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To add insult to injury, Bivens says his son's account had $1.38 left in the account. I guess the Gardendale Elementary School didn't have an "I will need lunch money soon" stamp.
For their part, the Jefferson County School said via Nez Calhoun, director of public information, "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, why? Could they not email, text or use other means to let the parents know the account is low or empty? It's not as if the kid is going to supply the money. Besides, this is a child we're talking about, not an animal!
"They herd these kids like cattle. When you start stamping a message on a child's body instead of calling ... it's not OK," Bivens said, adding he never received an email like he has in the past to alert him to the low balance.
Making this situation even more unacceptable is that the Bivens' son typically brings his lunch and uses the money for snacks, like ice cream. So basically, this stamp was 100 percent unnecessary.
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In the aftermath of the controversy, the principal said if parents tell the school they are unhappy about the stamps alerting them to their lunchroom debts, they will not use them on their children. "We want to communicate in a way that our parents are happy with."
But Bivens, who didn't send his child to school the last few days of the academic year, says about the stamp: "It's a form of bullying and shaming the kids. I don't care if my son has a -$100 balance. ... I don't care. Send me a note home or an email. ... Where can I draw the line regarding my parental rights?"
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I must side with Bivens. Just reading about this incident makes me really angry. It's definitely tacky that the school would try to humiliate a child about something he has no control over. So, shame on them!
Where do you stand?