Children at a Utah elementary school were in tears on Wednesday after a district nutrition manager seized the lunches of up to 40 students over negative account balances.
According to The Salt Lake Tribune, the children had already received their lunches at Uintah Elementary in Salt Lake City when the child-nutrition manager ordered cafeteria workers to take the meals away.
"So she took my lunch away and said, 'Go get a milk,’” fifth grader Sophia Isom told KSL. "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.’”
Sophia said that the lunches were thrown away after being taken away from the students.
"There were lots of tears, and it was pretty upsetting for them," Sophia's mother, Erica Lukes, recalled.
Although the district had said that parents were notified about negative account balances as early as Monday, Lukes pointed out that she was never told.
"Even if they did try to send the word out, you still don't do that to a child," she noted. "You don't take a lunch out of their hands."
And the Salt Lake City School District apparently agrees. In statement posted to Facebook, the district admitted that the "situation could have and should have been handled in a different manner. We apologize."
"We are also investigating what type of notification parents may or may not have received prior to this week," the statement said. "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."
"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."
Watch this video from KSL, broadcast Jan. 30, 2013.