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for their parents’ failures. But that’s exactly what happened when an 8-year-old boy was sent home with a stamp on his arm that said “I need lunch money.” The third-grader was humiliated after his whole class laughed at him for not having enough money to afford a school lunch that day.
Apparently, the boy had forgotten to add money to his lunch money account, so the Gardendale Elementary School in Gardendale, Alabama publicly stamped the boy with the humiliating message before ordering him to go home.
All of his classmates saw the stamp. That was the point. The school wanted to punish the boy for not bring his lunch money to school. They figured humiliation and embarrassment was the best method to get through to the 8-year-old.
The boy’s father, Jon Bivens, was offended by the stamp and thought the school made a big mistake.
“It’s a form of bullying and shaming the kids,” Bivens said to AL.com.
He called it completely ridiculous since the school has many other ways to discretely communicate with parents like phone calls or email. Instead they chose a method that left every one of his son’s classmates laughing at him.
“I can’t think of one logical reason why anyone would stamp on a note on a child’s arm,” he said. “We have so much technology and multiple ways to communicate.”
But this is not an isolated incident in Gardendale. The entire Alabama school district brands their students with stamps whenever their accounts reach $0. But Bivens claims that his son actually had $1.38 to spend on school lunches before they branded him with the embarrassing note in front of all his classmates.
“I personally had never heard of [the stamping policy] before my son came home with it,” the angry dad told ThinkProgress.
Apparently, the school has been doing it for years. Probably since before email and other instant forms of digital communication became commonplace. But it certainly seems like a cruel and unnecessary way to get a message across.
“My biggest focus was the fact that the schools herd these kids like cattle. Stamping notes onto their arms is just one step closer to school becoming an assembly line.”
Many parents agree with Bivens and think the embarrassing brand should be stopped.
But Gardendale Principal Laura Ware doesn’t think the battle is over yet. She called Bivens out for contacting reporters before he contacted the school.
“It is extremely unfortunate that this happened to that student,” said Nez Calhoun, director of public information for Jefferson County Schools. “I feel for the parent, but we didn’t know anything about it until we saw the story in the paper.”
The principal and Bivens are arguing about “Branding” the children at the elementary school.
“I don’t care if my son has a -$100 balance,” Bivens said. “Send me a note home or an email.”
“When you start stamping a message on a child’s body instead of calling … it’s not OK,” the angry father continued…
Principal Ware lashed back with the following…
“We want to communicate in a way that our parents are happy with,” Ware said, according to AL.com, adding that the school would not stamp any child whose parents told the school not to do so. “That’s a part of our jobs.”
Do you think Alabama schools should brand children as punishment?
JOIN THE DEBATE in the comments below!