A Washington state elementary student was denied his school lunch recently because a cafeteria worker told him there was no money in his lunch account.
“It was a sack lunch. It was in a bag, she was passing it around to everybody. The lunch lady said, ‘Guess what, you can’t have a lunch.’ She said that. She said I can’t have a lunch,” said 7-year-old Xavier, in a recent interview.
The local news station, KCPQ, only identified Xavier and his father, Eric, by their first names.
The incident happened Oct. 20 at Cascade View Elementary in Snohomish County.
Xavier’s dad said the student is on the school lunch program and the balance on his account never should have fallen into negative territory. Eric said he wasn’t aware of a problem until Xavier came home that afternoon, having not eaten lunch, carrying a note that said there was no money in the account.
Even if the money wasn’t there, Eric said he thought it was unfair to deny a meal to a child.
“My question was never answered as to why he was denied. I was very mad. I couldn’t believe it happened. It happened to me as a child and I could still feel that hurt and I can only imagine what he went through,” he said.
But Xavier’s incident wasn't the first in the state.
KCPQ reported in June that a Mill Creek Middle School student was also denied a lunch in the nearby city of Kent.
According to that student’s father, the cafeteria worker threw his son’s lunch in the trash because the student’s lunch account was short 26 cents.
The school district later apologized and spoke with the employee about how to better handle the situation, should it happen again.
But, so far, there has been no word on what the Snohomish County School District is doing to review Xavier’s case.
When contacted about the incident, a district representative admitted the situation should have been handled differently. The policy is that when a student’s balance is more than $20 in the red that student is still entitled to a cheese sandwich and unlimited fruits and vegetables from the cafeteria salad bar, the representative said.
Eric said he chose to speak up because he feels it’s an important issue.
“I just don’t want this to happen to any other kid. It’s hurtful,” he said.