When Tara Chavez picked up her second-grade son from Desert Cove Elementary in Phoenix last week, he showed her the bad news.
Short on money for his lunch, Chavez's son got a stark reminder from the cafeteria stamped on the inside of his wrist in thick black capital letters: "LUNCH MONEY."
"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 upset mother told BuzzFeed News, adding that she was "surprised" because she usually gets "a slip in his folder when he needs more money.”
A friend of Chavez posted a photo of the stamp on Twitter:
This is the stamp. On his wrist. https://t.co/I0OCK8VeBa— juanyFTP (@juanyFTP)1491049437.0
"Like, y'all couldn't send a note?" her friend asked. "Y'all couldn't think for two seconds about the numerous references of branding someone as a stigma?"
More from the outlet on Thursday's incident:
Chavez said her son told her that he was given a lunch despite the stamp, and that when she checked his account online, there was still 75 cents remaining in it.
She said her son was embarrassed, which is what bothered her most about the incident.
“He was screaming and crying the entire time,” Chavez said. “He was humiliated, didn’t even want me to take a picture of it.”
Chavez said Desert Cove Principal Stacey Orest emailed her about the incident, saying cafeteria staff don't want to embarrass students, so they are "supposed to ask them if they want a stamp or a reminder slip," Buzzfeed reported.
Then on Monday, Paradise Valley Unified School District spokesperson Becky Kelbaugh told the Phoenix New Times that Desert Cove will discontinue “reminder stamps” about low lunch-money accounts.
“It was never the intention of Desert Cove Elementary School administration and staff to embarrass any student by using the stamp,” Kelbaugh told the paper. “Students were given the choice between a letter or reminder stamp. Going forward, Desert Cove Elementary School will send a letter home notifying parents of low lunch balances.”
Kelbaugh said that when there isn't enough money in students' accounts, they are given multiple free lunches.
A similar incident happened to an Alabama elementary school student last year:
A father says his son was "branded" with "I need lunch money" stamp>> https://t.co/mK7iPMlpzp https://t.co/xrt66qG1Dk— KIRO 7 (@KIRO 7)1466011204.0
"When you start stamping a message on a child's body instead of calling ... it's not OK," the third-grader's father, John Bivens, told AL.com last June.