A father was angered after his 8-year-old son came home from school with a stamp on his arm about his lunch money.
Jon Bivens felt the school overstepped the mark by using the stamp, which included a smiley face, according to Al.com.
“I thought it was a good job stamp,” Bivens told AL.com, referring to his initial reaction.
But he looked at it more closely and realized it read, “I need lunch money.”
Bivens said he never received an email about his son’s balance, and even after he made his last purchase, there was still $1.38 in his account.
“They herd these kids like cattle,” he said.
Bivens said his son usually takes his own lunch to school, but likes to buy treats while there.
“When you start stamping a message on a child’s body instead of calling, it’s not okay,” he told Al.com.
“It’s a form of bullying and shaming the kids,” he added.
Bivens explained he had no intention of topping up the balance because it was so close to the end of the school year.
But regardless of the balance in the account, Bivens maintains the school could have communicated more sensitively.
“I don’t care if my son has a -$100 balance. ... I don’t care. Send me a note home or an email. ... Where can I draw the line regarding my parental rights?” he said.
Laura Ware, the principal at the Alabama school attended by the boy, said stamps or stickers were regularly used by food services staff.
“We want to communicate in a way that our parents are happy with,” Ware added.
The way schools chose to deal with negative lunch money balances has also triggered controversy in other parts of the country.
In the Superior School District in Wisconsin, parents received calls in May warning them that reports on the balances of their children would be sent out the following day. Only those with the money to pay or with a $2.30 balance in their account were to be allowed to have lunch.
Debts of $50,000 linked to lunch money accounts were built up in the district by parents last year.
“We call 2,800 families a week with low balance notices,” said food services director Jamie Wilson, according to the Superior Telegram.
The more aggressive tactic provoked a number of comments from parents on social media.