Parents say children humiliated

HOPE MILLS They say children are publically humiliated when parents owe unpaid lunch money.

Susan Stevens is one of those parents. She told Eyewitness News that just before spring break, her daughter Kaitlynn's lunch was snatched out of her hands by a cafeteria worker at Rockfish Elementary School.

"Got through the lunch line, got to the cashier, and the lady asked her for her tray, took her tray, threw it in the trash. She gave her a peanut butter sandwich and orange juice because I owed seven dollars," Stevens explained.

School leaders say that money adds up. Two years ago, overdrawn cafeteria accounts cost the school system $40,000.

"One thing that we try to do is notify families way ahead. When child's balance, if you have a credit account, when it gets down to three dollars, then the family is notified," offered spokesperson Wanda McPhaul.

When a student comes down the line at the cafeteria, it's when they get to the cashier at the end that the cashier seeing if they have an unpaid balance. School policy says the cafeteria worker then has to take the child's tray away from them.

"I wish I could pay for them all. I got an account, but we can't do it and I can't afford it," offered worker Belinda Smith.

Smith says it happens sometimes twice a day. It even happened while our camera was rolling. The student's account was overdrawn and Smith gave the girl an alternative meal consisting of a peanut butter sandwich and a juice. The child's hot lunch was taken out of her hands in front of her classmates and eventually thrown away.

"Just having them take your tray away in front of all your friends in your classroom is just really, really, embarrassing," said Kaitlynn Godwin.

"Sometimes that's the only hot meal that those kids get. Some kids don't get it when they get home and they depend on that lunch to eat everyday and it's not fair. It's not fair for the child to have to go all day long because I neglected to make sure she has lunch money," said Stevens.

Stevens admits it was her oversight that led to her daughter's account being overdrawn, but she feels no student should be humiliated when it comes to getting a hot meal at school.

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