She picked at the loose thread on her pink jacket. It had started as a tiny wisp earlier in the day.
But as she sat on the sofa and listened to her father yell into the phone, his face turning red as a tomato, it grew longer. She thought back on what happened that day and felt new tears form.
Anya was like any 6-year-old at Greenwood Elementary. She loved her classes and had lots of friends, but her favorite thing was recess.
Today was sunny and she could already imagine stretching her legs to make the swings go so very high. But first was lunch. And she had no idea it was going to be horrible.
Children rushed into crooked and jittering lines as they waited their turn to grab a tray and punch in their number so they could eat.
Anya spun her curly brown hair around her finger and imagined how good the chocolate milk was going to taste. She peeked down the line and set eyes on the grouchy lunch lady.
The girl in the front was one of Anya’s friends. She pressed the keypad.
Whatever happened next caused the lunch lady to scrunch her nose and point to another teacher. A little lip quivered and tears started to trickle down red cheeks. Anya watched her friend hand over the tray and walk to the back of the line.
Other kids pointed and laugh. It made her friend cry harder.
Anya looked around, trying to figure out what was going on. But the only thing she could think of was maybe the old lady had said something mean? She felt her stomach twist into nervous knots as each kid took their turn.
Anya held the tray of delicious food and approached the grey-hair lady with the wrinkled frown.
She tapped in her number and tried to walk away. Something gripped her shoulder and pulled her back. It was the lunch lady. “Only a sandwich for you,” the old woman said, pointing to a teacher. It was Anya’s turn to start crying.
Confused and in an embarrassed daze, the little girl found herself going through the same movements she had to watch her friend go through.
The same kids now pointed at laughed at her as she was made to go to the back of the line. She picked at the thread of her jacket and bawled.
As she sat at the table and munched on her boring PB&J sandwich, another teacher came over and put a note in her backpack.
“Give this to your father,” she said. Anya spent the rest of the day feeling terrible – not to mention worried about the letter. Was she in trouble?
The fret carried all the way home. When her father asked her how school was, she handed over the letter and told him what happened.
His face twisted in anger. It got redder as he read the note. She must have done something very wrong and braced for whatever punishment was coming.
“It’s okay, baby,” he said, giving her a hug. “I’ll take care of this. Go watch some TV.”
She ran to the living room, thankful for whatever just happened. But that’s when she heard her father start yelling. “You never told us about this!” Pause. “I don’t care! You made a 6-year-old do a walk of shame. You should be fired!”
It turned out little Anya was one of many lunch time victims to find out what a lunch walk of shame was.
The phenomenon started to bloom through the States – where kids whose school accounts didn’t have enough money for lunch were forced to take steps that ended up embarrassing them.
Although the school tried to make excuses, including a note about their new policy, the dad fired back with unknown information.
He had actually been a teacher before. Even though he had worked in a different city, he knew these processes very well. He also took to the internet and slammed the school workers. Their response was dismal.
Not only did most people refuse to talk to the press, the one answer they did get from the superintendent was in complete contradiction to what had actually happened.
They claimed things should have been handed discreetly and there was a “two-meal-forgiveness “ rule on each account – neither of which was given to Anya.
The conversation exploded over social media as people from all over the country shared their own horror stories about similar events.
Anya’s dad learned that some places had forbidden any walks of shame or student involvement with account issues. So if they could do it, why couldn’t Greenwood? No one in the school seemed to be doing anything to fix the problem.
It was a hurricane of pointed fingers and angry words – with the little girl stuck in the middle.
Although her father did his best to promise things would be okay from now on, all she knew what she was scared of lunchtime. Now, every day, the line made her stomach feel funny.