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School district changes policy after boy denied lunch on birthday over $9 debt

Posted: 9:07 PM, Sep 09, 2019
Updated: 2019-09-09 21:08:47-04

SUMMIT COUNTY, Ohio – An Ohio school district is changing its meal policy after a boy was denied lunch on his birthday over an outstanding balance that was less than $10.

Jefferson Sharpmack's usually playful, happy personality changed in an instant during lunch hour inside Green Primary School back on August 30, WJW reports .

"He gets off the bus and he says, 'Grandma! Worst birthday ever!' And I asked him what happened and he proceeded to tell me he wasn't allowed to pass out a snack, which is a new policy, I understand that," said Jefferson’s grandmother, Diane Bailey. "Then he says they took his lunch from his tray and gave him a piece of cheese and bread."

Diane Bailey has temporary custody of her grandson and his siblings and enrolled them in the free and reduced lunch program.

Bailey said she was told she could write a check for any unpaid balance until the paperwork was processed, but said her grandson was denied the lunch he wanted – because of a $9 unpaid balance.

"He was bullied. He was bullied by the school officials. He had his lunch removed from his tray at the age of 9," his grandmother said.

Bailey said Green Local Schools took notice after she made several complaints and decided to make district-wide changes, effective immediately.

In a statement released to WJW, Superintendent Jeff Miller said students K-12 will now receive the standard lunch for the day, regardless of their account balance.

He went on to say, "We are sensitive to the financial hardship families incur and challenges presented due to the cost of school breakfast and lunches. 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."

"This was the perfect solution, I thank Green schools for responding so quickly."

And while Jefferson’s 9th birthday may have started on a bad note, grandma said it ended with dinner at his favorite restaurant and cupcakes.