CLINTON — A north-central Arkansas elementary school is making some changes in its lunch program after a second-grader awaiting a hot meal was pulled out of a serving line because her lunch account was overdrawn.
While 7-year-old Laycee Green’s classmates at Shirley Elementary were served pizza Nov. 5, she got a peanut butter sandwich and an apple in a paper sack. The child went home hungry and humiliated, according to her mother, Candice Green.
Green said her daughter was told she could not go through the line because there was no money left in her lunch account. She said a note was sent home with Laycee that day saying that her lunch account was $8.10 in the red.
Candice Green said that when she got home from work that day, Laycee told her, “I had a horrible day at school.” She said the girl was “starving and embarrassed,” and that Laycee had pretended to classmates that the sack lunch was brought from home.
Green said the cafeteria manager, Amy Davidson, told the parents that she had been out sick the day before and that it was her fault that no note was sent before the incident occurred.
In a telephone interview Monday, Superintendent Betty McGruder said the school’s policy is to stop serving hot lunches to a child when his or her account is $10 in the hole. She said the $2.25 price for the meal Laycee missed would have pushed her account over that amount. The alternate meal is “a wholesome lunch,” McGruder said.
She said there are 100 students in the district who pay full price for their meals.
McGruder said she has now made some procedural changes.
When the alternate meal is given out, it will now be placed on a tray like other meals, not handed out in a paper sack, and it will not be a “big production,” she said.
She also said parents will now be called as soon as their child’s account becomes negative.
McGruder said Davidson is leaving her job as cafeteria manager, but said it had nothing to do with the incident involving Laycee.
Green said she was sharing her daughter’s story because it is wrong to “belittle and bully” children.
Laycee got her pizza for lunch a day late when her aunt took pizza to school and had lunch with her, her mother said.
While schools are not obligated to provide meals to children whose accounts are behind, USDA encourages schools to be flexible in their policies, particularly with young children. In some places, school organizations have established funds to pay for meals for children who do not have the money.