Student 'Humiliated' After Elementary School Stamps 'Lunch Money' on His Arm

Juan Fortenberry school lunch stamp tweet

There has got to be a better way for schools to communicate issues and concerns to parents that does not include shaming a child. And yet, here we are. A Phoenix elementary school stamped "lunch money" on a student's hand with a low balance ... and just thinking about the humiliation that likely came with this action is both heartbreaking and extremely irritating.


Tara Chavez was surprised to see her son (she's keeping his name private) branded with such a stamp when she picked him up from school. "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 my wrist and put the stamp on,'" the mom told BuzzFeed News. "He was screaming and crying the entire time."

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Likely pissed she didn't receive a letter about his school lunch account being low -- and that someone would think humiliating a child in this way is okay -- Chavez also told BuzzFeed News there was still a little money in his account, making the stamp unnecessary on top of already being unnecessary.

Juan Fortenberry, this mom's friend, took to Twitter to share his frustration with the situation and a photo of the little boy's arm.

student stamped on hand with lunch money

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"Y'all couldn't think for two seconds about the numerous references of branding someone as a stigma?" Fortenberry questions on Twitter.

Since the incident, Becky Kelbaugh, a representative for the Paradise Valley Unified School District that oversees Desert Cove Elementary, released a statement to the Huffington Post that says, "It was never the intention of Desert Cove Elementary School administration and staff to embarrass any student by using the stamp. Students were given the choice between a letter or reminder stamp. Going forward, Desert Schools Elementary School [sic] will send a letter home notifying parents of low lunch balances ... School administration has worked directly with the parent to address her concerns."

Kelbaugh also notes the controversial use of the "lunch money stamp" has been discontinued some time ago ... but obviously, that does not appear to be the case.

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As much as I think settling accounts is important, I wish there was some way for faculty working in schools to remember that children are in fact children -- and shouldn't have to deal with the shame of a low account balance.

I remember times growing up when I had to rely on reduced lunch when my mom was experiencing financial difficulty. It was hard enough being among my peers, with their knowing I was on reduced lunch. But to think about getting stamped for a low account balance is a type of shame I hope another child never has to experience.

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