- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 14, 2019

A Minnesota school district apologized this week after a video went viral showing cafeteria workers throwing out students’ hot meals because they had lunch debt with the school.

A Richfield High School student posted a video Monday showing multiple classmates having their hot meals taken off their plates, thrown into a bowl and replaced with cold peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when they were found to have more than $15 in lunch debt at the register. The food that was removed was reportedly later thrown out.

“We deeply regret our actions today and the embarrassment that it caused several of our students,” the district wrote in a statement Monday, according to KARE. “We have met with some of the students involved and apologized to them.”

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Richfield Public Schools Superintendent Steven Unowsky added that the cafeteria workers “inaccurately and inappropriately implemented alternate lunch,” saying the policy allows the student to keep the lunch on their tray and the student’s lunch debt should be addressed in a phone call home, not in front of their peers.

“There are multiple failures we had in this situation and our job is to fix it. First and foremost (in) the way we treated our kids. We should never leave kids with the feeling they had from the experience.”

Richfield High School Principal Latanya Daniels also condemned what the students went through.

“One of the things we can do is model failure with grace. We absolutely failed in this situation and our team is working to try and rectify mistakes we made,” Ms. Daniels said.

Richfield’s congressional representative, Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, introduced a bill in October with Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont called the “Universal School Meals Program Act” and would provide free meals to all students.

She also submitted a bill with Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith, a fellow Democrat, in June calling for school lunch debt “shaming” to end.

“Across this country, students whose families are struggling to afford school meals are being singled out and humiliated at lunchtime,” Ms. Omar said at the time. “No child should incur a debt because of their financial constraints beyond their control.”

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