Salt Lake school officials blame system glitch for lunch debacle

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  • ander05 Birmingham, AL
    Feb. 10, 2014 9:57 a.m.

    This is the schools fault and they must take the blame for it. They need to apologize to the students who were not given food and to their parents. They need to take full responsibility for it.

  • Lindsay Payson, UT
    Feb. 9, 2014 8:13 a.m.

    In Nebo school district you give you're number to the worker before you get your lunch. And we start getting emails about lunch funds being low when it hits $11.50, with an email every day until you pay it. The worker stamps the kids lunch with a smiley stamp when their account hits $7, not sure what happens when they hit zero because I always pay for the lunch. I just wait till my kid gets a stamp because they think its cool to have a hand stamp. I do know they have lunches that they give for free to the kids who had their funds run out.

    My dad works in food services and he said one time one of the district people noticed a girl hovering near the trash can and when someone dumped in food she would grab it out and eat it. So the guy goes to the lunch lady, hands her $50 and said to put it on that girls account, and when it gets low you call me and I'll get more money.

  • dan76 san antonio, TX
    Feb. 7, 2014 3:00 p.m.

    Joe Schmoe
    Orem, UT
    Pay your bills. End of problem.

    Apparently you did not read how the district failed to provide sufficient time for parents to add funds to their student's account.

    Do you pay your utility bills prior to receiving the statement?

  • ErinR Salt Lake City, UT
    Feb. 7, 2014 9:47 a.m.

    Trying to shift the blame to their computer system is just ridiculous. We've been using the same payment system all school year, and get notified when our account balance goes below $10, but we registered on the new system at the beginning of the year. When we registered we set preferences for receiving notification about our son's meal account. We're not seeing any "system glitches" - the "system glitch" seems to be the school district not letting all the parents know they need to sign up online.

    Smells like a red herring to me. "It wasn't me officer, it was the one armed man!"

    They didn't tell me when I signed up for the payment system that if I didn't keep my child's account up to date the computer also had the capability to pick up my son's lunch in front of his classmates, throw it in the trash, then hand him an apple and a milk to get through the rest of the school day on.

    Quite a system!

  • Homeron Morgan, UT
    Feb. 7, 2014 8:59 a.m.

    Great news they figured it out...... The computers took the food from the studants a threw it away ! Child Nutrition Department director Kelly Orton makes $56.30 an hour and $144,211.00 a year in wages why should he be concerned a child did not get lunch ! Perhaps a a donation of his overpay should be given to the school to make us for this error

  • worf Mcallen, TX
    Feb. 7, 2014 1:45 a.m.

    Is our national debt a glitch?
    Is keeping our insurance plans a glitch?
    Are the taxes we pay a glitch?

    Wow! I could go on for ever!

  • BYR West Bountiful, UT
    Feb. 6, 2014 6:26 p.m.

    What about the suspended employees? Do they get an apology?

  • Sophie 62 spring city, UT
    Feb. 6, 2014 4:57 p.m.

    Several times during the weeks' course of this sorry tale, the school has admitted that children whose parents HAD paid for lunch still had their lunches taken away.
    Children are not responsible for their parents not paying. Yet people have been saying outright that the children are supposed to learn something something from this incident about being responsible for their parents' actions. Like these actions were justified.
    It's about a computer problem that led certain people to make a decision to take away about 40 children's lunches. Not just denying them lunch, which would have been bad enough, but dishing up those lunches, then snatching them away and throwing them in the trash, in front of their friends and other children who may not be their friends.
    "We were just following orders." Does that have a familiar ring?
    It was thoughtless and wasteful to say the least, mean-spirited, short-sighted, and unkind.
    Perhaps this was the only meal of the day that some of these kids might have had.
    Life is tough enough for a lot of kids, without adults in authority making it worse, without humiliating children in front of their friends.

  • JimLynch King George, VA
    Feb. 6, 2014 4:27 p.m.

    I agree with the other commentators. What brain-dead mindset would suggest that we let kids go through the line, and then we jerk their lunch trays out of their hands and trash them. This IS NOT A COMPUTER PROBLEM. This is an administrative foul-up that places the interests and feelings of the children far down at the bottom of the list. Everyone involved should be fired.

  • Instereo Eureka, UT
    Feb. 6, 2014 4:15 p.m.

    It's bad enough that children had their lunches taken away because of a computer glitch but what about the employees that were put on leave? The apology would be great to give to the students but the employees need it as well and also they need to make sure there is no write up in their files.

  • OlderGreg USA, CA
    Feb. 6, 2014 2:57 p.m.

    I pay my bills when I get them. I know what they look like.

    If a biller changes style -- telling me by way of some obscure communication (bulk mail? website terms-of-use that I never visit? microprint "notice" in a pile of stuff a child is supposed to take home?) that I must opt-in to receive bills -- there *will* be a problem.

  • BusStopRatBag Layton, UT
    Feb. 6, 2014 1:47 p.m.

    "There's no way to undo the humiliation that the kids are feeling."

    "Taking away a child's lunch is cruel and traumatizing."

    "...ripping food away from kids"

    "...the District employee who humiliated those students be fired"

    "No, the parents should not assume responsibility for having their kids harassed. We live in a civil society, If you owe me money I dont' go intimidate your kids; that is what a mobster would do. I send a bill or handle like a civil person."

    "...include humiliating someone, tearing food from their hands, cutting up a credit card in front of dozens of onlookers, etc."

    A slightly regrettable issue, easily fixed, that has been elevated to a melodrama of epic proportions. The quotes above are tame compared to some I've read on other stories and, as we all know, death threats have been made over this.

    As for the humiliated kids, I should think the vast majority of them were over it by second recess. In their innocence they just "get" that this is a first world problem.

  • Linus Bountiful, UT
    Feb. 6, 2014 1:40 p.m.

    The philosophy driving public education these days is that our children really belong to society at large; not to their parents. So, if the federal government is going to dictate the direction of our children's education independent from parental oversight, then maybe the government schools should feed the bodies of our children independent from parental responsibility. No, I'm not seriously promoting entitlement to free lunch; I'm in favor of parental involvement and responsibility for all phases of our children's education.

    I say that parents should have the right to review and provide oversight of public school curriculum, materials, testing, data-mining confidential family information, and school-lunch menus aimed at our children's minds, values, egos, self-esteem, and bodies.

    Incidentally, we have been invited annually to join our children for school lunch. In our opinion, these "mostly cold lunches" are neither nourishing nor appetizing. What have we come to? I remember "hot lunch" (what we called school lunch) from my childhood as being a well-balanced, delicious, freshly cooked meal. The lunch ladies took pride in what they prepared. Not so these days. Michelle has had her way!

  • BU52 Provo, ut
    Feb. 6, 2014 1:29 p.m.

    That's America, no one to blame for anything and no consequences. USA USA

  • ulvegaard Medical Lake, Washington
    Feb. 6, 2014 1:16 p.m.

    As has been suggested by others and should have been expected, when it all comes out in the wash, some faceless entity was ultimately responsible.

    In my way of thinking, no one's job description should ever include humiliating someone, tearing food from their hands, cutting up a credit card in front of dozens of onlookers, etc. People need to have the fortitude to stand up and say, 'this isn't right'. Its not enough to say, 'I was just following orders'.

    I hope they get that pesky computer glitch fixed and I hope that people will get the notion that it is not okay to publicly humiliate someone. There has to be a better way.

  • Greenshadow PLEASANT GROVE, UT
    Feb. 6, 2014 1:09 p.m.

    If they were so concerned about saving the money the parents supposedly hadn't paid, why did they throw the lunches in the trash? They could have let the kids eat and billed the parents later, but throwing food away was just plain wasteful, especially when we are always hearing about how financially strapped school districts are. This was a bureaucratic absurdity.

  • windsor City, Ut
    Feb. 6, 2014 1:07 p.m.

    Even if it was a system glitch, it was a 'human' decision by someone to take food away from kids and throw it in the trash.

    Wrong wrong.

    Feed the kids--- and work out any problems, discrepancies, concerns, or glitches in a sane, kind and rational way later.

  • The Rock Federal Way, WA
    Feb. 6, 2014 12:56 p.m.

    So just how did throwing lunches in the trash accomplish anything?
    Did it save any money? No.
    Did it reduce labor? Nope, it increased it.

    These things always hit the news. The education establishment should consider how it will look to the public before they do something stupid.

  • IDSpud Eagle, ID
    Feb. 6, 2014 12:35 p.m.

    dmcvey, to say that children have a "right" to at least one meal a day needs to be qualified. That "one meal" is not the school's responsibility to provide. Children have a "right" to be cared for by their parents or designated guardians. Parents, don't have a "right" to abdicate their responsibility to anyone else for meeting their children's needs, unless prior agreement between the parent and guardian has been established and agreed upon.

    Clearly, the current system is broken. No meal should be taken away once in a child's hands. It would be a noble thing for the school to have procedural exceptions to follow (a safety net of sorts) for when a child shows up to the line without the means to pay. But ultimate responsibility for any child rests with their parents or designated guardians.

  • Fred44 Salt Lake City, Utah
    Feb. 6, 2014 12:30 p.m.


    So if I send my kid to McDonald's to get lunch with no money and they refuse to serve him, McDonald's is harassing and shaming him? If my kid walks across the street to a convenience store for lunch and grabs some chips and a milk a banana and sandwich and clerk says no you can't have those because you didn't pay for them, the store has harassed and shamed him and should just give him the food and come up with a better method for collection?

    As I said the school employees could have done a much better job of handling the situation, but why do we come down on them for a mistake that is being corrected, and place zero accountability on the parents who didn't pay their bills?

    Kind of hypocritical don't you think. Both sides where at fault, but only one is held accountable.

    Feb. 6, 2014 11:39 a.m.

    Wow, what a payment system, it made the decision then got up and took those kids' lunch away!

  • 3grandslams Iowa City, IA
    Feb. 6, 2014 11:27 a.m.

    It's pretty clear that the action towards the students was carried because of District policy. The District needs to be held accountable and take the burden off the school employee who was following policy.

  • Strider303 Salt Lake City, UT
    Feb. 6, 2014 11:18 a.m.

    There is no "right" to a school lunch. Should a child or teenager have a meal in the middle of the day, yes. It is the parent's responsibility to provide that meal, either send it with the child/teenager or arrange to purchase it at school.

    If you remove the federal government from the equation you remove several layers of bureaucracy automatically. Delete the state and leave the district to organize how to provide a noon meal service. Funding can be by meal ticket, electronic balance or cash - it is legal tender for all debts public and private.

    IMO a limited, simple menu would suffice. The school meal is not meant to be a restaurant but a food stop in the day. A bite to eat, some down time and then back to the day's business - learning.

    I have made my breakfast since Junior High and lunch too, or carried money to purchase a lunch. We need to encourage parents and children to be more self reliant and stop waiting for someone else to provide for their needs.

  • Midvaliean MIDVALE, UT
    Feb. 6, 2014 11:05 a.m.

    No, the parents should not assume responsibility for having their kids harassed. We live in a civil society, If you owe me money I dont' go intimidate your kids; that is what a mobster would do. I send a bill or handle like a civil person.
    People dont' pay their bills all the time, that is a part of life. Your system for debt collection SHOULD ABSOLUTELY NOT include shaming children.

  • Hey It's Me Salt Lake City, UT
    Feb. 6, 2014 10:45 a.m.

    Very first paragraph computer payment system glitch the reason "several" students . . . I thought the first reports we heard were way more than several students that got their lunches taken away. They blow it off like it was not very many and no big deal and oh, by the way it was the computers fault. Did the computer make and sign school policy? Just asking. I think I would have risked my job and given them the lunches. Then I would have taken them to court to save my job if I had to. Nobody was willing to stand up and Chose The Right that day? How sad!

  • lledwards38 Canandaigua, NY
    Feb. 6, 2014 10:46 a.m.

    I certainly believe in personal responsibility and accountability. But why should the children be held responsible for the failure of the parents to keep the lunch account current? And what lesson in "personal responsibility and accountability" did the children learn when their lunches were taken away and tossed in the trash?

    That was just plain stupid. No way the computer glitch is responsible for that decision. How about some consequences for the people who did it

    Given the current emphasis on nutritious lunches, where does a box of milk and an apple fit in that plan?

  • Shawnm750 West Jordan, UT
    Feb. 6, 2014 10:31 a.m.

    This doesn't address the bigger problem which is: The district's lunch distribution system is the true failure. As I understand it, the kids to whom this happened had made it ALL the way through the lunch line, had their food dispensed and were THEN told they didn't have enough money in their accounts. To me, this method only facilitates the same situation happening again. The district needs to modify their process so that it's determined BEFORE they receive their food that account has insufficient funds and that they've exceeded the maximum number of free lunches they can have.

    I also agree that parents do need to be more active in managing their kids accounts, but in this case, parents were accustomed to the old system and both they and the district weren't adequately educated on the difference between the new and old systems. The bottom line is that this incident has revealed some flaws in the current lunchroom procedure and now the district has a chance to improve it and we can all move on.

  • That's A Good One Salt Lake City, UT
    Feb. 6, 2014 9:47 a.m.

    1) No excuse for punishing and embarrassing the kids because of irresponsible parents and idiotic decisions by adults to trash meals.
    2) Parents know their kids are eating school lunch, they know how much lunch costs, they know how much they've paid-ergo-it isn't rocket science to know when your kid's account is at zero-take the responsibility to put money in the account, or send a brown bag to school with until you have money in the account! It doesn't take a genius to manage a school lunch payment account. Sheesh, it would be interesting to see the checkbook management skills of some of these parents.
    3) The forced participation in the MyPayment+ program is a racket. The system charges a fee every time you deposit money into your kid's account. So you not only pay for the meal but you pay for the privilege of making it easy for the school to electronically know when it's time to take a kid's lunch away and throw it in the garbage. (Oh, and it's quite easy to sign up for account balance notifications. A middle schooler could show parents how with ease)
    4) See #1 above

  • That's A Good One Salt Lake City, UT
    Feb. 6, 2014 9:42 a.m.

    Funny to me that parents are passing the buck because of their inability to keep track of their own kid's school lunch account balance. Do these same parents just spend money from their personal checking accounts until the bank comes and takes away their checkbook or debit card at the checkstand in Walmart? Or are they responsible to know their balance and not spend more than they've pre-deposited before they head into Wally World?

    Feb. 6, 2014 9:38 a.m.

    hamrdown, If you will read the article, you will see that Salt Lake District's old program did the same thing. They now have a NEW program that does not notify parents unless they specifically ask to be notified - something parents were not told.

  • hamrdown OREM, UT
    Feb. 6, 2014 9:24 a.m.

    This is all hogwash about the parents not being notified - they are just trying to re-direct the blame.

    As a parent, I have used this system for my children's schools in Orem (Elementary, Jr High, and High School) and I am sent a notice anytime any of the accounts reaches $5. We have used this system for many years now and I have always been notified when my children's accounts reach $5 (or less).

  • dmcvey Los Angeles, CA
    Feb. 6, 2014 9:22 a.m.

    raybies, I actually don't have a problem with the idea that kids have a "right" to a school lunch. As a parent, it's fine if you want to send a lunch with your child, but I think children should have a "right" to at least one meal a day.

  • dmcvey Los Angeles, CA
    Feb. 6, 2014 9:19 a.m.

    A glitch may have been responsible for showing that the kids hadn't paid, but it wasn't responsible for giving the food to those children then taking it away from them and throwing the food in the trash--that was a really bad decision by a human being.

  • Utah Dem Ogden, UT
    Feb. 6, 2014 9:18 a.m.

    We all know that the leadership in the SL district knows who gave the direction to toss the lunches, we also know that the district, the child nutrition program personnel know they messed up and no there is no dignified way out of this. Just get with all the kids and their parents and apologize, give the kids one free lunch and have the computer software adjusted immediately. And to the parents - if you don't get an email notification of your child's lunch account just check it every Sunday to make sure they are at least covered for the week.

  • Eliyahu Pleasant Grove, UT
    Feb. 6, 2014 8:13 a.m.

    While it is, indeed, a computer issue that kept the parents from being notified, it wasn't a computer that took those lunches away and threw them in the garbage. It's all good and well for the school district to state that they are investigating to find how the order to take those lunches was given, but just how big a chain of command do they have to deal with? A reasonable person could interview everyone connected with the decision within a couple hours and have an answer.

  • Ohio Reader Columbus, OH
    Feb. 6, 2014 8:00 a.m.

    In my opinion, its a great chance to teach about making mistakes and asking for forgiveness! Yes, bring in the 600 cupcakes. Teach the children that we all make mistakes and that is part of life. Don't let a feeling of victimization permeate the school. Say your sorry and then move on.
    And yes, parents, its your job to make sure your kid has lunch. If you don't know they don't have any money, then you aren't paying enough attention! Please get involved in your child's education and life. Say you are sorry, and make a change. We all slip sometimes, its OK. Just promise you'll do better next time.

  • Reuben D. Kaysville, UT
    Feb. 6, 2014 7:59 a.m.

    I think I did hear an apology in the article from Kelly Orton. This happened to me a couple of years ago in another school district. I had made a payment but it did not show up on the school computer. However, taking lunches from children is still ridiculous.

  • djc Stansbury Park, Ut
    Feb. 6, 2014 7:31 a.m.

    I'm still concerned about who has been sent home and who is still fully employed. The last I saw, the $17/hour Food Service Manager and the $9/hour cafeteria worker have been sent home pending termination. The $144,211. District Nutrition Operations Service Director who stood by and told the lower level employees what to do is still employed and is still making excuses for the District's actions. If this isn't corrected, I sincerely hope that Salt Lake City residents will take action to ensure that it never happens again. The excuses being offered are lame. It seems to me that a bully from District came to the local school and browbeat employees into doing something that was fundamentally wrong, something that made the local employees cry while they were doing it. I'm sure the District Director told the local school employees that what they were doing was "good for the students." I don't want this to become another case where privilege and wealth protects the person most responsible for an evil act. So far between the excuses and the coverups it looks like that is what is happening.

  • OneAmerican Idaho Falls, ID
    Feb. 6, 2014 7:23 a.m.

    Why not put the cashier at the FRONT of the line, so that if they are going to deny a lunch, they don't have to throw the food away? Another question is, if they didn't allow the child to eat the food because he hadn't paid for it, how does throwing it in the trash pay for the food?

  • Zac Ogden, UT
    Feb. 6, 2014 7:15 a.m.

    A glitch? Why don't they say "if you like your school lunch, you can keep it" while they are at it?

  • NedGrimley Brigham City, UT
    Feb. 6, 2014 6:53 a.m.

    Um, McMurphy: You really think Warrior was serious? I think there was a healthy dose of sarcasm going on...

    Article: "District officials have said they are still investigating whether taking lunches away was proper protocol in this situation." ... Are you kidding me?

    Feb. 6, 2014 6:45 a.m.

    yellow got your attention therapy by creating a half truth into a whole repulsive experience. Two bad practices do not make a right experience.

    Feb. 6, 2014 6:26 a.m.

    A couple of things about computers, Kelly:

    They are really stupid. They reach results based on the information they are provided by people. Ergo, it is not the computer's fault.

    Computes also do not have arms and legs. They do not force lunch ladies to children's lunches. They provide information; people then make decisions based on that information. It is not the computer's fault.

    You did this, Kelly. It's time to stand up and be honest.

  • 3grandslams Iowa City, IA
    Feb. 6, 2014 6:22 a.m.

    It is laughable to hear the school district blaming a computer for ripping food away from kids and throwing it in the trash. District officials need to be investigated. If they are are offering up this excuse they are hiding other things too.

  • raybies Layton, UT
    Feb. 6, 2014 6:17 a.m.

    Although kidly humiliation was clearly wrong, I do sympathize with schools regarding these programs...

    I have a problem with the whole idea of a "right" to a school lunch, if you don't pay. I actually have a child who is sent to school with a nutritious lunch from home. When that child arrives at school the lunch mysteriously does not. Then I get an email from the school stating that I owe the school X amount of money because my child didn't have a lunch and begged for one in the cafeteria, because there was something better to be had.

    I'm frustrated with the system because it seems to me that my child SHOULD go hungry. I don't think missing a lunch for a day is going to cause any serious health problems, at least not for my kid... especially if they threw their food away to eat school lunch.

    I think schools should be required to contact parents before charging money to the kids.

  • Joemamma W Jordan, UT
    Feb. 6, 2014 5:57 a.m.

    Why is it that you people don't understand the Utah school system?
    This is the way it has been for decades and it's called holding people accountable!!
    Stop acting as if you want free lunches or a taxpayer handout in exchange for your kids having been "humiliated" due to a computer malfunction.
    The problem has been found and it will be solved so let's we move on and stop the witch hunt.
    You don't pay for your kids lunches there will be consequences so stop pressing that you want a free ride for a computer error.
    The system should continue to be as it's now, "you don't pay yuour kids gets a salad or a PBJ and milk" end of story.

  • Fred44 Salt Lake City, Utah
    Feb. 6, 2014 5:47 a.m.

    I understand that what happened was not good. But shouldn't the parents who did not pay their bill assume some responsibility regardless of whether there was a computer glitch that didn't send them a notice? I check my students account balance regularly as a parent and if gets under $10.00 I put more money in. Our current society has basically allowed parents to give any responsibilities associated with raising children to someone else, specifically the school system. Again, not defending they way this was handled, but if parents had been responsible and paid their bills, it would not have happened.

  • Carl G Chicago, IL
    Feb. 6, 2014 5:39 a.m.

    The "investigation" follows the pattern set by... ummmm, certain National "leaders" -- blame someone else / couldn't have been my fault....

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    Feb. 6, 2014 3:46 a.m.

    Not only should the District employee who humiliated those students be fired, but the District employee(s) who are now trying to blame a computer program for causing the problem should be fired. It was an adult who threw the lunches into the garbage, not a computer program. It was an adult who decided that elementary aged students should be ridiculed in front of their classmates.

    The entire District office should be shut down until the people there realize that humiliating little children is not part of their job description.

  • Joe Schmoe Orem, UT
    Feb. 6, 2014 12:14 a.m.

    Pay your bills. End of problem.

  • On the other hand Riverdale, MD
    Feb. 5, 2014 11:55 p.m.

    Taking away a child's lunch is cruel and traumatizing. Whichever adult or adults decided on that course of action should apologize personally and individually to each affected student. And surely the school district can provide some kind of training to their decision makers. It should at least hit on at least the following two points:

    1. Policies designed to humiliate have no place in the school system.
    2. If you need something from parents, you reach out to those parents.

    They could serve lunch at the training. Say, a pint of milk and a piece of fruit.

    Feb. 5, 2014 11:33 p.m.

    Rise of the Machines. Call out the Terminator - Computers are taking over. Today it small children's' lunches - tomorrow Nuclear Missiles will be flying unless Matthew Broderick can convince the machine the "only way to win is not to play the game" or in this case "not to serve the lunches."

    Apparently some of our Human Counterparts have sided with the computers and have become minions of the machines. Compelled by words on the screen they snatch food from little children and obey without regard.

    The End is Near..... Someone call Neo.

    (Please see The Terminator, The Matrix and War Games if this post makes no sense)

  • McMurphy St George, Utah
    Feb. 5, 2014 10:42 p.m.

    Way of the Warrior has it right.
    No -- the new payment is not to blame. The computer did not take away the trays, a person did. Apparently that person was on the bottom of the pecking order and has been placed on administrative leave. Go up the pecking order until you find the person that ordered the action. The school board says they do not yet know who that person is -- clearly not trying very hard. If the school board ever finds out who that person is then it can be determined if that person was following some school board policy or is merely an idiot.

  • ekute Layton, UT
    Feb. 5, 2014 9:13 p.m.

    Lame. There's no way to undo the humiliation that the kids are feeling. They should at least get free lunch for the rest of the year...and don't compound the humiliation by publicizing it.

  • Way of the Warrior Arlington, WA
    Feb. 5, 2014 6:35 p.m.

    Yes, yes, that's it! After an in depth investigation it turns out it was a computer glitch that ripped the lunches out of the hands of children and threw them into the trash can. It's the computer's fault! On a side note, we admit it was really just a communication error on our part. No biggie. Problem solved.