Boy, 9, gets lunch taken away on his birthday over $9 debt

A 9-year-old boy had perhaps the worst birthday ever last Tuesday when he had his school lunch taken away over a $9 debt in front of his classmates, WEWS reports.

Jefferson Sharpnack, who had moved to Ohio two months ago and turned a year older earlier this week, said he grabbed food at Green Primary School when he was suddenly stopped by a cafeteria worker.

"I got my cheesy breadsticks and put in my number," he recalled. "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."

When the 9-year-old returned home later that day, he told his grandmother Diane Bailey — whom he and his brothers had moved in with — what had happened.

"In my mind, he didn't owe anything," Bailey told the station. "I owed the money, the parents, the school district. 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 reserve it? You're going to throw it away and not feed the child? That doesn't make sense to me."

Just days before the embarrassing episode, Jefferson had reportedly come home with a note claiming that he owed $9 for his lunch account. Upon receiving the notice, Bailey told WEWS that she called his school to sort the debt out. She added that she was told that she could write a check to cover the 9-year-old's lunch balance until his free and reduced lunch registration paperwork was processed. Yet, despite that conversation, Jefferson seemingly remained in poor standing with the school, WEWS notes. 

Following last week's incident, Jefferson's school district said on Sunday it would review its policies.

"It is important to us that students have positive experiences in the lunchroom and all areas of the school," Green Local Schools said in a statement. "For that reason, we will continue to look into our practices and come up with solutions that work for our students and families."

By Monday, Superintendent Jeff Miller revealed to WJW that, moving forward, students would receive the standard lunch regardless of their account balance.

"We are sensitive to the financial hardship families incur and challenges presented due to the cost of school breakfast and lunches," he said in a statement. "Our staff, in coordination with family support specialists, will continue to work with families to ensure they have access to all available resources to assist with purchasing school meals."

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