I just don't …
Can someone help me understand …
Have we really reached a point where we feel like humiliating children over $2 (or even $50) account deficits is considered a proper reaction?
Apparently school officials at Uintah Elementary in Salt Lake City had no problem scarring 40 kids for life when they took away their meals and threw them in the garbage over outstanding accounts.
As Fox 13 News in Utah reports, the kids were served lunch and then the food was taken from them and thrown away. The children were told their school lunch account had either a zero or negative balance. Officials said it's school policy for food in such situations to be put in the trash. "She took my lunch away and said, 'Go get a milk,'" Sophia Isom, a fifth-grader at the school, told NBC affiliate KSL.com. "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.'"
Are you kidding me?
Apparently, cafeteria workers were unable to see which students owed money until after they received their lunches. That's why they took them away after the kids were served. They were thrown in the garbage, because once a meal is served to a student, it can't be served to another. Policy, you know?
Why grown adults would feel okay about taking a lunch away from a student because of policy is completely beyond me. Use your brain, people. Take two seconds out of your day to weigh the feelings of a student with following a policy and wasting food, and you might get your answer. If you're so interested in following policy, why don't you pull $20 out of your own pocket to cover the bill for all 40 students in debt for the day and then sort out the money later?
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.
Olsen later acknowledged in a statement saying, "This situation could have and should have been handled in a different manner. We apologize."
I'm shaking just thinking about the kids who were made to feel like dirt, especially in front of classmates. If you've ever gone grocery shopping and have subsequently had your debit card declined in front of a line of other people anxious to check out and go on about their day, then maybe you have some idea how these kids probably felt. Except these are impressionable children who are at the mercy of school officials whose job it is to protect them while at school, not instigate a situation these kids will never, ever forget.
When I was a kid, those of us on the special school lunch program for poor kids had to carry a bright pink lunch ticket and line up together at the end of the line, because it took a little longer to process our tickets. It was horrible, and I dreaded that moment every single day of my life. That pink lunch ticket might as well have been a neon sign flashing over my head that I was a "poor kid."
But instead of improving the situation of children being made to feel inferior or denied lunch for various reasons, it is happening more and more. It happened to Babble's Megan Jordan who just didn't realize her son's account balance was at zero until he called home crying.
And here I thought those days of shaming kids at school were long over.
Shame on any adult, especially one working in the school system, who would deny a lunch or take one away from a child over a couple dollars. It should be illegal.
Photo source: wagfarms.com
-By Monica Bielanko