Parents of students attending Uintah Elementary School in Salt Lake City, Utah were furious to learn that their kids' lunches were taken by cafeteria workers. Up to 40 students had their lunch trays taken from them because they had balances on their student accounts that hadn't been paid. Instead of eating a hot lunch, the children were given a piece of fruit and a carton of milk. The food on the lunch trays was thrown away since rules prohibit food from being served twice.
Jason Olsen, the Salt Lake City School District spokesman, confirmed that the school did indeed take lunches from students. "They did take that tray away and gave them fruit and a milk," Olsen said. "We don't ever let kids go without any food entirely."
"It was pretty traumatic and humiliating," said Erica Lukes, whose 11-year-old daughter had her lunch taken. According to Lukes, she didn't realize her daughter had an outstanding balance on her student account. "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. You would think in a public school system your child wouldn’t be turned away from lunch, especially when people usually settle their balances."
The Salt Lake City School District released a statement on their Facebook page and apologized for the situation and says they are working on how they notify parents of outstanding balances. Check out the full statement below.
According to an article Dave Arnold wrote for the National Education Association, schools are within their legal rights to deny students lunch if they have unpaid balances. While some districts will let kids charge lunches and settle at the end of the year, others deny lunches after students get a week behind.
"I would let them get behind for no more than a week," Terri Prough, a Louisiana school employee, said. "Then I would refuse to feed them. I have worked in elementary, junior high, and high schools and it is always the same old story. The parents do not pay lunch bills, yet they give their children money for the concession stands that we open the last 10 minutes of every lunch period. These kids come to school with $5, $10, $20 for concessions. If they have money for that, they can surely pay for their lunch. Our lunch costs $1.10. Snacks cost $1.00."
Arnold also notes that the parents could face charges in some areas if they don't pay for lunches for their children. "When a parent knowingly allows their child to go without food for a certain period of time (the time limit differs from state to state) then it could be interpreted as child neglect," Arnold said.
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