(NaturalNews) A Utah elementary school made international headlines recently after it was reported that administrators there starved out about 40 students whose lunch funds were lacking. According to The Salt Lake Tribune (SLT), cafeteria workers at Uintah Elementary School were forced to seize and toss the pizza lunches of dozens of students, offering them instead a small piece of fruit and a carton of milk.
The issue came about after an exceptional number of students at Uintah were found to have zero or negative balances on their lunch accounts. The district's child nutrition department was called in to handle the situation, which began with them simply calling the parents of the offending students to get the accounts settled. But when some of the parents were unable to be reached, the district decided to confiscate and discard their children's lunches.
"It was pretty traumatic and humiliating," stated Erica Lukes, whose 11-year-old daughter had her pizza taken and thrown away by one of the lunch ladies that fateful Tuesday, to SLT. "I think it's despicable. These are young children [who] shouldn't be punished or humiliated for something the parents obviously need to clear up."
What made the situation worse is the fact that Uintah collects lunch money from students after they walk through the lunch line. This means that the cafeteria workers did not know which students had outstanding balances until they were already standing in front of them with trays full of food. Those students with unsettled account balances were forced to surrender their food, which administrators say had to be thrown away in accordance with the health code.
"[O]nce food is served to one student it can't be served to another," writes Lisa Schencker for SLT about the issue.
Cafeteria manager placed on leave for 'bullying' students with starvation
Not long after the incident occurred, the school's cafeteria manager was placed on leave for what two state politicians, a Democrat and a Republican, later declared to be an act of "bullying" toward students. At a recent press conference, Sens. Jim Dabakis (D) and Todd Weiler (R) chastised the child nutrition manager for her reckless handling of the situation.
"To me, this rises to the level of bullying," stated Weiler to SLT. "Children were humiliated. I think it's an abuse of power. This person came into a school and used her power to humiliate and embarrass children and I think we ought to draw a line and say that's not acceptable behavior," he added, expressing his desire to see the manager fired.
A similar situation occurred at Barber Middle School in Dickinson, Texas, back in November, when a 12-year-old student had his lunch thrown away after it was discovered that his account was 30 cents short. ABC 13 News in Houston reports that the boy's mother had to leave work and drive to the school to settle the account so her son could eat that day.
"My son called me and asked me if I could bring him some money because they took his breakfast from him and he needed money for breakfast," explained Jennifer Castilleja, the boy's mother, to reporters. "I said, 'Well, I'm on my way, I'll pay for it,'" she added. "And [a cafeteria worker] said no, I would have to bring some money before he could have breakfast."