Ohio School Takes Lunch Away From Boy on His 9th Birthday Over Account Balance

An Ohio grandmother says she was left in tears after finding out that her grandson was humiliated in front of his schoolmates when lunch room staff took away his lunch on his 9th birthday due to a "misunderstanding."

Jefferson Sharpnack is supposed to be enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program at Green Primary School, however, his application was still being processed at the time of the incident, ABC-affiliate News 5 Cleveland reported.

On August 30, Sharpnack—who lives with his grandmother Diane Bailey—came home with a note saying that his lunch account was in the negative by $9. Bailey subsequently called the school to sort out the issue and was told by administrators that she could clear the negative balance by writing a check while Sharpnack's registration was being processed.

However, on the following Tuesday, Sharpnack came home and told his grandmother that he had had the worst birthday ever because a lunch lady took away his food in front of his schoolmates.

"I got my cheesy breadsticks and put in my number," Sharpnack said, "And when I was going to check out, the lunch lady didn't say anything, took away my cheesy breadsticks and sauce, put them over there, and took out bread on cheese from the fridge and put it on my tray."

Bailey was upset by her grandson's story and has now said that she hopes the school can make changes in the way it treats students whose accounts are in the negative.

"In my mind, he didn't owe anything. I owed the money, the parents, the school district," Bailey said. "And my other question is, if they take the food off of your tray, they have to throw it away. You would take the food off a tray and you can't re-serve it? You're going to throw it away and not feed the child? That doesn't make sense to me."

School principal Krista Seals said that she had addressed lunch room staff in the wake of the incident.

"We have spoken with our cafeteria staff already about how to handle things, maybe differently and continuing to work with this family in particular as well," Seals told News 5.

Administrators from the school district also that policy changes are already being considered.

"We are in the process of looking into this specific situation," a statement from Green Local Schools read. "We were not notified directly from the family, but district employees reached out after being made aware of a social media post. The lunch program is complex due to federal requirements. As it relates specifically to our policy, students receive multiple means of communication when their accounts become negative."

"Currently students who are $15 or more in debt are provided a lunch that includes fruit, vegetables, and either a cheese quesadilla or cheese sandwich. It is important to us that students have positive experiences in the lunchroom and all areas of the school. For that reason, we will continue to look into our practices and come up with solutions that work for our students and families," the statement read.

school cafeteria
Stock photo: A 9-year-old boy had his lunch taken away from him in a school cafeteria over his negative account balance. iStock