Up to 40 children at a Salt Lake City elementary school watched as their meals were dumped in the trash due to their outstanding balances on Tuesday.
"It was pretty traumatic and humiliating," Erica Lukes, whose 11-year-old daughter attends Uintah Elementary School, told the Salt Lake Tribune.
City spokesman Jason Olsen told the newspaper that Uintah had a large number of students who owed money, and the child-nutrition manager decided to withhold lunches to deal with the issue.
Cafeteria workers didn't realize which students owed money until they had already received their food, so the workers took the lunches away from the students and threw them away. The children were then given milk and fruit instead, Mr. Olsen said.
"I think it's despicable," Miss Lukes told the Tribune. "These are young children that shouldn't be punished or humiliated for something the parents obviously need to clear up."
Mr. Olsen released an updated statement that was also posted to the district's Facebook page.
"This situation could have and should have been handled in a different manner. We apologize," it said. "We understand the feelings of upset parents and students who say this was an embarrassing and humiliating situation. We again apologize and commit to working with parents in rectifying this situation and to ensuring students are never treated in this manner again."
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