As many as forty children at Uintah Elementary in Salt Lake City , Utah were forced to watch as school cafeteria workers seized their lunches and threw them away. Their crime? An outstanding balance on their lunch accounts.
This horrifying decision to humiliate children whose lunches were taken away has enraged parents. “It was pretty traumatic and humiliating,” said Erica Lukes, whose eleven year old daughter had her lunch taken from her as she stood in line Tuesday. According to Lukes, she thought her daughter’s lunch was 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.”
CLICK HERE FOR AN UPDATE: School Employees Who Trashed Crying Kids Lunches SUSPENDED, Investigation Opened!
Lukes describes it as a difficult day for the children. Her daughter said that a cafeteria worker cried at the sight of up to forty children’s food being taken from them. She said her daughter’s best friend went home and made lunches for all the students who were deprived of nutrition that day. “Even if they did try to send the word out, you still don’t do that to a child,” she said. “You don’t take a lunch out of their hands.”
Lukes’ daughter Sophia told KSL her account of the lunchtime drama. “So she took my lunch away and said, ‘Go get a milk,’ ” Sophia said. “I came back and asked, ‘What’s going on?’ Then she handed me an orange. She said, ‘You don’t have any money in your account so you can’t get lunch.’”
Jake Olsen, A Salt Lake City District spokesman explained that the district’s child nutrition department had elected to deprive students of their lunches because a large number of students at the school owed money, though some question the sensibility of wasting a large amount of food and traumatizing children in order to deal with an issue of payment.
Olsen went on to say that cafeteria workers had no way of knowing who owed money until the children had received their lunches. If a child was found to owe money, his or her food was taken away and thrown in the trash because once food is served to a student, it can’t be served to another (once again calling into question the sensibility of throwing the food away).
Children whose lunches were taken were given only fruit and milk, thus depriving them of a balanced meal and the energy needed to perform at full capacity.
Olsen initially said he would not describe the strong-arm tactics used against children as a mistake. “If students were humiliated and upset,” Olsen said, “that’s very unfortunate and not what we wanted to happen.” However, he later released an updated statement, finally apologizing for the children’s treatment. This situation could have and should have been handled in a different manner,” the Facebook post said, We apologize.” Olsen added, “We understand the feelings of upset parents and students who say this was an embarrassing and humiliating situation. We again apologize and commit to working with parents in rectifying this situation and to ensuring students are never treated in this manner again.”
Unfortunately, shaming children has become an increasingly common method of dealing with lunch money payments. For example, In October a seven-year old at Bonsall West Elementary School was sent home with a “Lunch Money, Please” sticker on his shirt.
What is the solution? Some feel that children who lack lunch money should perform forced manual labor. Others feel that children should not be humiliated at all. As long as Utah’s legislators feel that school is not all that important, though, we’ll likely see more of the former.