A Minnesota school district was left apologizing after a video surfaced, revealing high school cafeteria workers throwing away hot meals of students with outstanding lunch debt.
Monday, Richfield High School cafeteria staff reportedly took away hot lunches from 40 students’ lunch trays, replacing them with cold lunches once they noticed certain students had a lunch debt of over $15, according to NBC Minneapolis affiliate KARE 11 reports.
Students captured the incident on social media, and shortly after, the school district in Richfield apologized.
“We deeply regret our actions today and the embarrassment that it caused several of our students,” the district wrote in a statement. “We have met with some of the students involved and apologized to them.”
Richfield Superintendent Steven Unowsky told news sources the actions of cafeteria staff were “inappropriate.”
“There are multiple failures we had in this situation, and our job is to fix it,” Unowksy said. “First and foremost [in] the way we treated our kids. We should never leave kids with the feeling they had from the experience.”
Sources say Richfield High believes students should not be publically informed of their debts, instead notified by a social worker or guidance counselor to avoid humiliation and shame from others.
The school also declared a hot lunch should never be taken off a student’s tray regardless of the situation.
Principal Latanya Daniels stood by the superintendent’s statement adding, “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.”
Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who represents the high school district, introduced a bill with another Minnesota Democrat, Senator Tina Smith, this past June to end this vicious cycle of school-lunch debt shaming called “No Shame at School Act.”
“Across this country, students whose families are struggling to afford school meals are being singled out and humiliated at lunchtime,” Omar said in a statement in June. “No child should incur debt because of their financial constraints beyond their control.”