Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014

Two workers on paid leave after lunch taken away from elementary students

By Viviane Vo-Duc, Deseret News

Published: Fri, Jan. 31 3:16 p.m. MST

 The Uintah Elementary School cafeteria manager and her supervisor have been placed on paid leave after dozens of students had their lunch taken away and were told they didn't have money to pay for their lunch.  They were given fruit and milk instead.

The Uintah Elementary School cafeteria manager and her supervisor have been placed on paid leave after dozens of students had their lunch taken away and were told they didn't have money to pay for their lunch. They were given fruit and milk instead.

(Steve Landeen, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah cafeteria manager and her supervisor have been placed on leave during an investigation into why lunches were taken from students who owed money on food accounts.

Salt Lake City School District spokesman Jason Olsen said Friday the Uintah Elementary School cafeteria manager and her supervisor have been placed on paid leave while the investigation continues.

On Tuesday, dozens of students went through the lunch line with trays, and many did not make it past the cashier. The food was thrown out, and the kids were given fruit and a milk instead.

Erica Lukes' daughter, Sophia Isom, had her lunch thrown away, even though Lukes said the account was paid. The kids and teachers were upset.

“We had teachers that were digging into their own pocketbooks to pay for lunches while this district person was there,” she said.

Lukes said she believes the two people on paid leave are being used as scapegoats and the district isn’t taking responsibility for its actions.

“They've basically said that they might have made a mistake. Oh, they probably did make a mistake. They did make a mistake, and they need to say that. They need to make changes, and they need to quit blaming people that were not responsible for their actions,” she said.

According to Olsen, a district employee came to the school Monday to look into the school's claim of unpaid account balances, which Olsen said involved between 50 and 70 of the school's 550 students. School officials tried to call parents Monday and Tuesday, Olsen said, but several parents said they were not notified.

The district apologized Wednesday.

District policy mandates that schools work with parents on unpaid balances, which would include giving them "as much notice as possible," Olsen said. "There shouldn't have been food taken away."

The district's investigation will try to determine whether its online lunch payment automatic debit system was working correctly, Olsen said. A possible glitch in the system may explain why so many parents were unaware of their low account balance.

Contributing: Richard Piatt

Email: vvo-duc@deseretnews.com

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1. aspen
Bellevue, WA,
Jan. 31, 2014

I cannot believe they would rather throw the food away than let the children eat it. There are no words.

2. djc
Stansbury Park, Ut,
Jan. 31, 2014

I am so very angry about this, and now the situation is even worse. Two employees, probably being browbeat by a district employee do what they are told to do, and will be punished. Yes, I agree that they should have told the district employee that they wouldn't do it, but they might have been afraid they would lose their jobs. This whole thing stinks to high heaven and the person directly responsible for it will probably skate. This is wrong. I didn't think this situation could possibly get worse but the school district proved yet again that nothing is impossible.

3. whatnext
Clearfield, Utah,
Jan. 31, 2014

This whole lunch thing makes me very angry. I work in a school and I see how much food gets thrown away after the lunch has been served. Every day we throw away 3 to 4 trash cans full of food that was not served to the students because of Federal Law. At my school we have many students that are in homeless situations and the only meal they get is what is served at school. We also have many students that are hungry even after they have finished eating their lunch. Instead of throwing the food away, why aren't we allowing these students to go back for seconds, with out paying for it since the food will be thrown away anyway or allow the students that have run out of money in their accounts to eat. Make them wait until every student that is paying for their lunch get theirs then allow those who ran out of money to have lunch. All the kids will at least get something to eat and the food won't be wasted. Students should never go hungry just because their parents forgot to put money in their accounts.

4. crazladie
Draper, UT,
Jan. 31, 2014

As stated in earlier comment...This entire problem is about the lack of RESPECT given! It starts at the district level, and funnels down from there! Obviously the lunchroom manager was feeling immense pressure to get the money in the kids account, and she reacted every bit as poorly as her district administrator! Fireing is NOT the answer here! Giving respect to ALL (above and beneath job statis) would solve this entire problem! Your politicians are just out to look as if they care, when in reality, this has NOTHING to do with politics! It has EVERYTHING to do with a poor working enviroment! Go in and teach the adults how to be nice, and these kinds of problems, and acts of stupidity will go away!

5. BU52
Provo, ut,
Jan. 31, 2014

If the meal is marked as sold then the district gets its Federal government allotment for the lunch. But humiliating the child by throwing away the lunch would certainly embarrass the parents into paying their bills