School accused of throwing away students’ lunches

In this file photo, a student displays her lunch consisting of vegetables, whole wheat bread, fruit, and lowfat milk. (AP Photo/Peter Cosgrove)
(WQOW/CNN) — Some students at a high school in Wisconsin claim staff members have tossed their meals in the trash when they did not have enough money in their accounts.
Superintendent Jim Jones said the Stanley-Boyd school district has been cracking down on lunch accounts that hit zero. He said they’ve been offering those students an “alternative lunch.”
“No employee at the district has physically taken a lunch and thrown it in the garbage, no,” said Jones.
Students and parents told WQOW-TV that is not the case.
“I guess I would have to call him a liar because he says straight up he’s never done that, and his staff doesn’t do it — that’s not true because we, as students, have seen it happen,” said a student who asked to remain anonymous, fearing he would be reprimanded.
The student added that he witnessed first-hand a principal throw away another student’s lunch.
“This special-needs student sat down and was eating lunch. He grabbed his tray and said, ‘you don’t have money in your account,’ and dumped his tray in the garbage. He did not offer him an alternate food option,” the anonymous student said.
The news station obtained an email exchange between the superintendent and a parent who claimed her child was not allowed to eat because of a negative balance. Jones responded:

First, I appreciate your contacting me.  I do share your concern in regard to our students and we most certainly do not want to throw food away.  To that end, I have a couple points to make.

1. Our system sends you an email almost every day.  I realize the policy uses the word mail but we use email when available to do that.  If a family does not have email on file, we mail home a notice whenever an account goes negative.

2. We talk to our students constantly about bringing in money.  They are told multiple times.  Parents are called constantly.  Not allowing a student to eat or providing an optional meal is always a last option and never something we would do without many warnings.

3. In regard to Kerry Foods, we had a person here who knew we needed to start doing something different to get a handle on this.  We did not do this because of the Kerry donation but rather the opposite.

If there is a better option, we most certainly would try it as long as that option does not lead to thousands of dollars of unpaid lunch bills.  This is a board policy that has been policy for quite a while.  We have had a handle on it for some time but for various reasons, our total balances had recently increased beyond $1,000 so I needed to attend to it.  When I started here in 2003, we had tens of thousands of dollars of unpaid lunch bills due to allowing students to eat without collecting money.  In order to have that not happen, we need to keep working on it.

Parents said that they do not believe it is fair to force some students to eat alternative lunches, while staff eat in the cafeteria for free.
They plan to confront the board at its next meeting on May 28.

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