Minnesota High School Threw Students’ Hot Meals Away If They Owed $15 Lunch Debt

Alan Cheung
By Alan Cheung
November 14, 2019USshare
Minnesota High School Threw Students’ Hot Meals Away If They Owed $15 Lunch Debt
Pizzas available for lunch at a high school in Chicago, Ill., on April 20, 2004. (Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

Staff at Richfield High School in Minnesota have taken away hot lunches from 40 students, thrown them in the trash, and replaced them with cold lunches, after staff discovered students had outstanding debt of $15 or more.

Richfield Public Schools Superintendent Steven Unowsky told KARE 11 that the incident should not have happened.

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

He said that the staff should not have taken away a student’s lunch if their lunch was already on the tray and the student was in line—regardless of their balance.

Instead of being notified of their balance out loud in front of everyone, students could be notified by looking at the register before notifying their parents on the phone.

Afterward, a social worker or guidance counselor could seek out and assist the student in private and figure out a plan that would work for them.

And before they get in the lunch line again, they would be privately notified of their negative lunch balance.

On Nov. 12, the same day of the incident, the school posted a public apology on their Facebook page.

“We deeply regret our actions today and the embarrassment that it caused several of our students,” the statement read. “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.”

In the same statement, they mentioned that the Richfield Public Schools district has accumulated nearly $20,000 worth of lunch debt.

A member of the Republican Party in Minnesota responded to the incident.

“’Not again’—that was my initial response,” said Rep. Tony Jurgens (R-Minn.), Fox 9 reported.

“Who in their right mind thinks it’s OK to dump some kid’s lunch in the garbage?” he said. “That’s the thing I have a hard time wrapping my mind around.”

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