This is a perfect example of how not to cut back on costs: On Tuesday, the Uintah Elementary School in Utah took away 30 students' lunch trays and threw the food out. Why? Because the students had negative balances on their lunch accounts. This means that 30 elementary school-aged children had their lunches forcibly taken from them at the cashier, saw their lunches dumped in the trash, and then were then given milk and fruit instead. If that isn't public humiliation, we don't know what is.
Since news of the lunch-grabbing broke Thursday, the elementary school has seen quite the backlash. The school district claims that on Monday, it had attempted to notify parents that children's lunch accounts had negative balances — but these parents tell a different story. A Facebook post by the Salt Lake City School District Facebook page reveals:
The schools says they inform students when they go through the lunch line if they have a low balance. They say they also send notes home in the student’s Monday folders. However, when contacted Monday or Tuesday, many parents were surprised by the news. The district has specific guidelines for school kitchen managers on how parents should be notified, and we are currently investigating to see if these guidelines were followed correctly.
Even though the school district apologized (again) after the note went swiftly viral, the post has had over 6,500 comments. Many commentators are understandably outraged, and see the incident as emblematic of the failure of the school system.
"What a joke! This is just one more example of how our public school system is a mess and that a government ran education system is not the answer and never has been," one commenter said.
Clinical psychologist Jeff Gardere provided his (perhaps slightly exaggerated) diagnosis to CNN: "These kids were traumatized because this was done in an angry fashion by adults that they trusted. We're talking about fifth graders here."
Utah senators Todd Weiler and Jim Dabakis expressed shock over the event, and have indicated they'd be willing take action in response. Weiler called it "bullying," while Dabakis said this pointed to a bigger issue: School funding.
Since the incident, the Salt Lake Tribune reports that a cafeteria manager is on paid administrative leave, and the district is still investigating.