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What’s a school to do when its name becomes synonymous with heartless insensitivity for focusing on money over the emotional health of its students?  Spend money, of course!


Uintah Elementary School is paying a pretty expensive price for a lesson most of us learned for free in Kindergarten: Be nice to others less fortunate than yourself and share.   In January, we all heard about the horrible incident when 40 students had their school lunches seized and thrown away, embarrassing them in front of the rest of their friends.  
"It was pretty traumatic and humiliating," mother Erica Lukes told the Tribune. Her daughter, 11, was among the kids whose lunches were taken away. "These are young children that shouldn't be punished or humiliated for something the parents obviously need to clear up.”
Utah School Draws Ire For Taking Kids' Lunches; Debt Cited

Ostensibly, this measure was intended to teach their parents that they should take it seriously when they receive a note about insufficient lunch balances.  Unfortunately, for many busy parents, the note was either not read or not acted upon.  Incidentally, the school made the choice to throw away the kids’ lunches only “one day after attempts to contact their parents failed.”    Utah School Draws Ire For Taking Kids' Lunches; Debt Cited
That’s one day.  I guess those school officials have never had their kids leave their backpacks at school or missed a phone call.    

It seems that Salt Lake City School District is now spending $50,000 on public relations consultations to help it recover from the embarrassment it caused itself by being so heartless and insensitive.  Plus, the Uintah Elementary School has been visited by state legislators and it has been the source of much debate across the country.  Most of the attention the school has received has been highly critical and negative.  Initially, the school tried to focus attention on the lesson the deadbeat parents should have learned.  I think they were genuinely surprised that most people only wanted to talk about how the kids must have felt after having their lunches publicly taken from them and thrown away.  The kids were given fruit and milk, after all. How could there possibly be a problem?

Only, it is a huge problem to humiliate kids and that sort of thing sticks to a school (or any organization) for a long time.  Schools really can’t afford this sort of lesson, though.  $50,000.  That’s enough money to buy 20,000 school lunches for the kids.School That Threw Away Kids’ Lunches Now Spending $50k On Public Relations Help  The next time this District asks its voters to approve a bond measure or raise taxes, it will really pay the price, however.  Few voters will want to open their pocketbooks for a school with this kind of reputation.  

As a local school board member, I can only hope that all schools aren’t tainted by this kind of behavior. The majority of schools have staff who are caring and compassionate and genuinely concerned for their students.  The majority of schools live in a precarious financial state and can't afford to pay this kind of price for stupidity.        

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