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Editorial: Taking kids' lunches not acceptable

Published February 3, 2014 2:04 pm

Fix school payment system
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A kid's lunch has long been the stereotypical target of the school bully.

But it's hard to imagine a school lunch worker as the bully taking away a child's food.

Yet that's what happened to 40 youngsters at Uintah Elementary School the other day, and apparently, snatching food from a child if her parents are behind in paying the lunch bill isn't unheard-of at other schools. That's not acceptable.

Parents were understandably upset. The Tribune story about the humiliation of schoolchildren went viral. The Salt Lake City School District has apologized, as it should.

But who are the culprits here? Two school cafeteria employees have been disciplined and their jobs could be in jeopardy. But are they to blame? Well, yes, sort of. But they were apparently following school district policy. If that's so we hope they keep their jobs; to fire them would be an overreaction. Still, we might have expected a supervisor to refuse to take away children's food trays and demand a change in the policy instead.

So, are the parents to blame? Yes, partly. If the family income doesn't qualify their children for free lunches, parents should pay for their kids' meals and stay on top of that responsibility.

But, the real culprit is the process for collecting lunch money from parents. District officials should adopt a better system. Why not use automatic debit as almost every other institution has?

One thing is certain. The children are not to blame, but they were punished anyway. That must never happen again — at any school in Utah.