It seems as though we’re constantly writing about kids are getting bullied, battered and otherwise belittled at school. When it’s kid-on-kid crap, it’s not excusable, but it is more understandable, as the students try to press through the Darwinian hellhole known as the social graces of our educational system.
When adults decide it’s time to shit on the kids, that’s when we all really have lost. Enter, Uintah Elementary school in Salt Lake City, where approximately 40 children had their lunches seized by school workers and thrown out in front of everyone.
The crime? They apparently had outstanding balances on their school lunch accounts.
According to news reports, the district’s CHILD-NUTRITION DEPARTMENT (pause there… savor the irony) sent a CHILD-NUTRITION MANAGER (pause again… let it soak right in…) to the school after officials became aware that a number of students owed money on their accounts. The manager, who for some reason is unnamed in the newspaper account, decided to withhold lunches from these kids. (Personally, I think that if the manager was so sure he/she was right about this approach, that person should be out front and be named. Let’s see how that person deals with the “humiliation” of having been called out for being an asshole.)
Unfortunately for her, these pita predators had already been served. This left only two solutions:
1) Let the kids eat this lunch, send a note home explaining that tomorrow or the next day lunch will be withheld if the parents don’t make good on their debts
2) Snatch the lunches back from the kids and throw them out, as food that has been served to one student can’t be served to another.
Throwing out the food makes no sense. It’s already out there and the monetary loss has been created, so you can’t get it back. The kids don’t have the money to pony up, so even the threat of this isn’t going to get you any cash. All that’s going to happen is you’re going to point out to everyone in the lunch room that these kids are either poor or allegedly have shitty parents who don’t pay their bills.
Of course, this was the option that district workers took, much to the shock and horror of parents at the school. The school initially didn’t apologize. Instead, district spokesman Jason Olsen said, “If students were humiliated and upset, that’s very unfortunate…”
IF? IF? The hell do you mean “IF?”
What else do you think they were? Proud that they could use this incident in their memoirs or as part of a country song they were developing? Happy because the food the school serves is shitty to begin with?
If Olsen were sitting down to eat with his family and friends at a nice restaurant and suddenly the waitstaff showed up, grabbed back the food and said, “Sorry, but we just ran a credit check and you’re too poor to eat here,” how the hell would he feel?
Then imagine that instead of politely eating their food, patrons at the tables around him pointed at him and laughed. Or chanted “You’re too poor! You’re tooo pooooorrr!” What would he feel like then?
Outraged? Incensed? Mortified?
Take those feelings and multiply them by a factor of ten, and you have the vaguest inkling of what the kids felt. Kids are unsure of themselves. The fear of being ostracized and singled out as different can cripple them. The notion that they have been failed by their parents, mocked in the lunch room and then told “Sorry, but hey…” by the district is a vile and disgusting outcome in a situation that didn’t need to be this way.
In the end, the most humane gesture out of this disaster was that one person was so upset, she went home and made lunches for all the children who had theirs taken.
Of course, that person was 11 years old.