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Utah elementary school seizes lunches from children whose parents owe money

Photo: Image by KSL Salt Lake City

Utah elementary school seizes lunches from children whose parents owe money

By Phyllis Stark. CREATED Jan 31, 2014

Parents in Utah are steaming mad after a school official “took lunches from up to 40 kids with unpaid balances and threw them away,” reports USA Today and other media outlets. The students were given fruit and milk instead.

It happened at Uintah Elementary in Salt Lake City. As USA Today reports, “Salt Lake City District spokesman Jason Olsen told the Salt Lake Tribune that parents with balances were contacted via phone Monday and Tuesday. They weren't able to reach all parents before the child-nutrition manager decided to withhold lunches to deal with the debts.”
 
Sophia Isom, a fifth-grader at the school, told NBC Salt Lake City TV station KSL the nutrition manager “took my lunch away and said, 'Go get a milk.’ 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.'"
 
Isom's mother, Erica Likes, told KSL the situation was "traumatic and humiliating" for the children involved, also calling the incident “despicable.”
 
“Olsen told the Tribune that cafeteria workers were unable to see which students owed money until after they received their lunches, which is why the workers then took them away,” reports USA Today. “They were disposed of because once food is served to a student it can't be served to another, the Tribune reported.”
 
The school system apologized to parents on Thursday, and told them it’s investigating why the children had their lunches seized, reports KSL.
 
"This was a mistake," said Olsen. “here shouldn't have been food taken away from these students once they went through that line."
 
The school’s Facebook page was deluged with comments, many calling the school and its staff "heartless" and "inhumane." Others accused school officials of being bullies, reports KSL, “an assessment shared by state senators who showed up at the school Thursday to insist that no Utah school kid should ever go hungry.”
Phyllis Stark

Phyllis Stark

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Phyllis Stark is the Digital Executive Producer - National Content for Journal Broadcast Group.