School Starves Kids Over Money Owed

8 years 9 months ago #1 by riada
Maybe Ebenezer Scrooge wasn't such a bad guy after all.

A group of up to 40 students at Uintah Elementary in Salt Lake City had their lunches taken away and then thrown in the trash due to outstanding balances on their accounts, as reported by the Salt Lake Tribune.

Erica Lukes, a parent of one of the students, told the newspaper, "It's despicable. These are young children that shouldn't be punished or humiliated for something the parents obviously need to clear up."

Lukes' daughter, fifth-grader Sophia Isom, told KSL-TV that a district employee took her lunch away and said, "Go get a milk." Sophia recalled, "I came back and asked, 'What's going on?' Then she handed me an orange. She said, 'You don't have any money in your account, so you can't get lunch.’”

So, what happened? The Salt Lake City district posted an apology and an explanation on Facebook.

A "child nutrition manager" had been sent to the school on Monday to investigate the "large number of students who had zero or negative balances in their school lunch accounts." Officials said they then began calling parents.

From Facebook:

On Tuesday, the calls to parents continued. When lunch time came, students who still had negative balances were told they could not have a full meal but were given a piece of fruit and a milk for lunch. The district does this so children who don’t have money for lunch can at least have some food and not go without.

Unfortunately, children are served lunch before they get to the computer for payment. The children who didn’t have enough money in their accounts had their normal food trays taken from them and were given the fruit and milk.

This situation could have and should have been handled in a different manner. We apologize.

The post on Facebook also goes on to acknowledge that the incident was "an embarrassing and humiliating situation."

The district, according to KSL-TV, contends it did try to warn parents about the outstanding balances. However, Lukes said she was not notified.

"Even if they did try to send the word out, you still don't do that to a child," she told KSL-TV. "You don't take a lunch out of their hands."

UPDATE: The Salt Lake Tribune reports that two Utah lawmakers, Sens. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, and Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, held a news conference at the school on Thursday.

Weiler called the school's actions "bullying" and "an abuse of power," adding, "This person came into a school and used her power to humiliate and embarrass children and I think we ought to draw a line and say that’s not acceptable behavior."

The school district issued another apology, at the news conference. Spokesman Jason Olsen said, "This was a mistake. This was handled wrong." And he added that food shouldn't have been taken from the students "once they went through that line."

Heroin Happy Meal? 'I'd like to order a toy' was code for 'Heroin, please.'
Heroin: Happy Meal boxes were used to distribute heroin, but the McDonald's franchise owner may not have known, say Pennsylvania prosecutors.

ShanTia Dennis, 26, has been jailed on charges that she sold heroin hidden in Happy Meals to drive-thru customers who uttered the code words, 'I'd like to order a toy.' The meals are marketed to children and contain a toy, but police say the customers who used the prearranged code knew they'd be getting drugs from Dennis.

"We have no indication the owner knew of this and neither suspect has, to this point, implicated the owner or anyone else at either restaurant," said Mike Manko, spokesman for the Allegheny County district attorney's office.

The meals are marketed to children and contain a toy. But police said the customers who called Shantia Dennis' cellphone to let her know they were coming to the McDonald's in the city's East Liberty neighborhood knew they'd be getting drugs from the 26-year-old East Pittsburgh woman.

Dennis denied wrongdoing when she was led away in handcuffs past reporters Wednesday night. Online court records don't list an attorney for her.

The franchisee, Iftikhar Malik, owns the store and another in Murrysville — a suburb about 15 miles east of the city — where a different employee was charged with dealing heroin on Jan. 14.

Malik's employees wouldn't take a message or give The Associated Press his phone number. They referred a reporter to a corporate press office which issued a statement from Malik:

"As an employer and a member of the community, the safety of our guests and employees is our first priority. The allegations related to this employee do not represent acceptable behaviors and are not consistent with my values. As such, we take these charges very seriously and we are fully cooperating with the authorities. We are also conducting our own thorough internal investigation."

Using information from a tip to a district attorney's drug task force, an informant accompanied by a police officer called Dennis on Wednesday, then pulled into the drive-thru and ordered the toy. They paid Dennis $82 for the $2 meal which also contained 10 stamp bags — or individual doses — of heroin, according to a criminal complaint.

Other officers then moved in and found the money used to buy the drugs, plus another $80 and a small amount of marijuana stored in Dennis' bra, the complaint said. Police said they later found another 50 stamp bags of heroin in her purse.

Dennis was jailed after her arraignment early Thursday on charges of criminal use of a cellphone and four drug counts: delivery of heroin, possession with intent to deliver heroin, and possession of heroin and marijuana.

The other drug suspect, Theodore Upshaw, 28, was charged with selling heroin to a police informant in the parking lot of the other McDonald's Malik owns. Upshaw remained in the Westmoreland County Prison awaiting a Feb. 4 preliminary hearing.

Investigators don't believe the drugs sold at either restaurant are linked to fentanyl-laced heroin that authorities are blaming for 22 fatal overdoses in recent weeks. Those drugs have been sold in bags stamped "Theraflu" and "Bud Ice." The drugs Dennis allegedly sold were stamped "Nite Nite" followed by a misspelled racial slur, a catch phrase popularized by comedian Kevin Hart.

Nor but in sleep findeth a cure for care.
Incertainty that once gave scope to dream
Of laughing enterprise and glory untold,
Is now a blackness that no stars redeem.

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