The headline was so outrageous I didn’t believe it at first. I see a lot of crazy stuff on the Internet that doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. Unfortunately, this one is true: Administrators at Uintah Elementary School in Salt Lake City confiscated and trashed the lunches of up to 40 students because their parents were apparently behind in payments.
Jason Olsen, a Salt Lake City District spokesman, said the district’s child-nutrition department became aware that Uintah had a large number of students who owed money for lunches. As a result, the child-nutrition manager visited the school and decided to withhold lunches to deal with the issue, he said. But cafeteria workers weren’t able to see which children owed money until they had already received lunches, Olsen explained. The workers then took those lunches from the students and threw them away, he said, because once food is served to one student it can’t be served to another. Children whose lunches were taken were given milk and fruit instead.
Parents were understandably outraged. Erica Lukes, whose 11-year-old daughter had her cafeteria lunch taken from her as she stood in line Tuesday, told the newspaper that as far as she knew, she was all paid up. “I think it’s despicable,” she said. “These are young children that shouldn’t be punished or humiliated for something the parents obviously need to clear up.”
The school district issued this lame apology:
When lunch time came, students who still had negative balances were told they could not have a full meal but were given a piece of fruit and a milk for lunch. The district does this so children who don’t have money for lunch can at least have some food and not go without.
Anyone with half a brain knows a piece of fruit and milk is hardly enough lunch for a child. It’s also a known fact that for a lot of poorer kids, school lunch is often the only decent meal they get all day.
Any decent soul knows that when parents fall behind on payments, it should never, ever be taken out on the kids. What’s worse is that in this case, it doesn’t appear parents knew they owed money.
I want to forgive the administrators who did this. I doubt they are heartless. I doubt they set out to do wrong. But their actions certainly demonstrate that they are unqualified to be doing the jobs they have. They should be fired or retrained.