In Memphis, Tennessee, a high school student was denied access to the school lunch program because his mother has been identified as having an outstanding balance.
The teenager said he was “embarrassed … especially in front of the whole class” because the cafeteria official refusing to give him lunch did so in a public forum.
The teenager’s account is less than $5 currently; however the Dowagaic Union High School (DUHS) has a policy that “any lunch” can be taken from “students who can’t pay”.
The teenager’s mother, Amanda Keown, said: “I was appalled that he was denied lunch and his lunch was taken out of his hands over $5.”
Keown spoke to officials at the school to complain about the treatment her son had received.
Because Keown did not want any other child to be embarrassed by this type of harassment, she donated $200 to the school lunch program at the school where her son attends to “clear every student’s outstanding balance in the entire high school.”
Earlier this year, Jason Olsen, spokesperson for the Salt Lake City school district (SLCSD) explained to the press in vague detail how school lunches were taken from 32 students at Uintah elementary with “overdue lunch accounts”.
A school cafeteria manager and school district supervisor involved in the refusal to feed elementary students are on administrative leave as the SLCSD conducts an investigation into the purpose behind the shocking actions.
Olsen said that “students whose $2 meals were thrown out were given milk and fruit, a standard practice when students don’t have lunch money. This was a mistake. There shouldn’t have been food taken away from these students once they went through that line.”
Parents complained about the lunch seizures as “humiliating and demoralizing” and that no child should have to “go through that.”
Another parent remarked: “Even if they did try to send the word out, you still don’t do that to a child. You don’t take a lunch out of their hands.”
Olsen admitted that the school district is receiving “angry messages from around the country” for the actions of their employees.
In response, “the school principal has set up an account to cover lunch for students without money in their accounts, and other principals are taking steps to ensure that no more lunches are seized.”
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