A school district in Minnesota is apologizing after cafeteria workers threw away the hot meals of roughly 40 students who accrued more than $15 in lunch debt. Video shared on social media showed staff at Richfield High School taking food off the students' trays and throwing it in the garbage. The food was then replaced with a cold lunch.
"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 called the actions of the cafeteria staff "inappropriate" and said that students should not be told publicly that they have outstanding debt. He also noted that hot food should not be discarded just because a student owes money.
“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,” Unowsky told KARE-TV.
Going forward, Unowsky said that school officials will contact parents and have private conversations with students about their outstanding debt and work on finding ways to remedy the situation.
While 65% of the students in the district qualify for free lunch, the district is still expecting to see school lunch debt exceed $20,000 by the end of the school year.