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Minnesota School Apologizes After Video Shows Staff Taking Lunches From Students With Lunch Debt And Throwing Them Away

Minnesota’s Richfield Public School District is now apologizing for a bafflingly counterproductive move in dealing with outstanding student lunch debt. Students with more than $15 in debt had their lunches taken from them and thrown away.

The incident was caught on video and uploaded to Facebook, leading to public outcry and causing district leaders to investigate what happened.

Richfield Public Schools Superintendent Steven Unowsky told local news station KARE 11:

“Our nutrition staff inaccurately and inappropriately implemented alternate lunch.”

The way the program was supposed to work would have had students informed of their outstanding balances before they got into the lunch line, in private.

Barring that, they could have simply been allowed to take the meal that was already on their tray and been informed of their lunch debt, and what their parents can do to pay it, in private at a later time.

Richfield High School Principal Latanya Daniels was very upfront about the school being at fault in this situation.

“There are multiple failures we had in this situation and our job is to fix it. First and foremost: the way we treated our kids.”

She was concerned with the students’ emotional well-being.

“We should never leave kids with the feeling they had from the experience.”

You can view Principal Daniels and Superintendent Unowsky’s full interview with KARE 11 below.

The district also posted an apology to their Facebook page.

“We deeply regret our actions today and the embarrassment that it caused several of our students. We have met with some of the students involved and apologized to them.”

“High school administration will also be meeting with student government this week to talk about the situation and listen to what students have to say.”

But admitting fault doesn’t erase the humiliation suffered by the student’s as their meals were taken from them and thrown away.

School officials met with many of the affected students and apologized to them, in addition to asking how they can help further.

Many people online do not feel this is sufficient to make up for the students’ experience, however.

Yvonne Araiza/Facebook

 

Michelle Norman/Facebook

 

Laura Grala/Facebook

 

Jason Whelan/Facebook

While terminating the employment of those responsible for misinterpreting or miscommunicating how the lunch debt policy would be implemented might sound like vindication for the students, training cafeteria staff on proper policy to make sure nothing like this happens again is likely the better path in the long run.

Childhood hunger is a problem in the United States. The book Free Lunch is available here.

Free Lunch is the story of Rex Ogle’s first semester in sixth grade. Rex and his baby brother often went hungry, wore secondhand clothes, and were short of school supplies, and Rex was on his school’s free lunch program. Grounded in the immediacy of physical hunger and the humiliation of having to announce it every day in the school lunch line…”

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Written by Winona Sioux Christnot-Peters

Winona Sioux Christnot-Peters is a writer/web designer and aspiring librarian based in Northern Maine. When not writing or in class, they devote much of their time to multiple non-profit organizations, largely focusing on LGBTQ+ rights and animal welfare. During rare moments of free time Winona enjoys video and tabletop games, as well as various nerdy fiber crafts such as crocheting (mainly amigurumi Pokmon, cat toys, and blankets) and counted cross stitch.