Cafeteria workers handed out the lunches on Tuesday at an
elementary school in Salt Lake City, but then seized and tossed out
the meals after realizing the children's accounts had not been paid,
district officials said.
The incident at Uintah Elementary School has enraged parents,
sparked a social media frenzy and drawn the attention of lawmakers,
who say they will consider whether state legislative action is
"Our children are traumatized," said Erica Lukes, whose daughter, a
fifth-grader, had her lunch tray taken without explanation. "This
was an unfortunate attempt by the district to humiliate kids so they
would go home and tell their parents and the account problems would
The Salt Lake City School District posted a written apology on its
Facebook page, saying the situation "could have and should have been
A district-level child nutrition expert and a school lunchroom
worker have been placed on paid administrative leave pending the
outcome of an investigation, district spokesman Jason Olsen said.
Olsen said the nutrition expert was at the school on Monday
investigating a large number of students with negative or zero
lunch-program balances. He said the school had tried to contact
parents by telephone and through notes sent home with students.
But the following day, students who still had negative balances had
their lunches taken back and were given a piece of fruit and milk,
Olsen said. The children had been served because the lunches are
handed out before students reach the computer for payments.
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"That should not have happened that way," Olsen said. "Once that
student's in line and has that lunch, you can't take that lunch
The lunches, which are subsidized by federal dollars, are priced at
$2 for students and $3 for adults, she said.
The district is now reviewing policies that dictate how parents are
notified about lunch program balances to determine if the guidelines
were followed, Olsen said.
"These children were humiliated in their own school in front of
their own classmates," State Senator Todd Weiler, a Republican, said
alongside a Democratic lawmaker at a news conference Thursday held
outside the school. "No child deserves that."
(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Prudence Crowther)
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