School apologizes after taking lunches away from children with negative account balances

3:20 PM, May 7, 2010   |    comments
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SOUTH TAMA, Iowa (NBC) -- Rhonda Staker is still trying to digest the reason why her daughter Shelby had lunch taken away from her Tuesday.

"They took her lunch and threw it right in the garbage and she had no clue why," Staker said.

Staker says her prepaid account had been in good standing with the school and that she simply lost track that it was time to make a payment.

She says many students didn't get to eat Tuesday because their accounts were overdrawn.

"She was very upset, crying. She called her dad very upset. Just not a happy camper," Staker said.

Luckily for Shelby, her brother who was home from college heard the news.

He came to the school and paid for Shelby to eat lunch, but many students weren't so lucky.

What happened Tuesday isn't sitting well with superintendent Kerri Nelson either.

"It's a miscommunication between our food service department and the high school administration and the people who were implementing the policy, resulted in a rather rash implementation," Nelson said.

The South Tama County Community School District has a policy that students whose accounts are overdrawn by $10 dollars or more are served an alternative lunch and not allowed in the traditional lunch line.

Under the policy, students like Shelby, who owe less than $10, should have been allowed their normal lunch.

Nelson says Tuesday high school staff acted wrongly in trying to implement a policy that for an undetermined reason hadn't been enforced in months.

Nelson says the district takes full responsibility for incorrectly implementing the policy and doing so without notice.

"I think the bottom line is that we're deeply sorry that it occurred and that it had a negative impact on our students and climate," she said.

The district has issued apologies to the students who were affected. 


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