Parents say report on school lunch controversy unfairly targets lunchroom employee

Posted at 9:40 PM, Sep 11, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-11 23:40:07-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Nearly eight months after 17 students at Uinta Elementary School had their school lunches taken away and thrown in the trash, findings from an independent investigation have been released.

The 23-page report touches on not only what happened on January 28, 2014, but policies, communication and even software changes that were likely factors in what happened. The students had lunches taken from them and thrown in the trash due to their school lunch account balances.

Salt Lake City School District official Jason Olsen spoke about the findings.

"We're not saying the blame goes on any one person or any one issue,” he said. “There's multiple things that have to be looked at and considered in this one."

The report states, in part, a change in billing software and parents not receiving notice of their accounts went unnoticed by the District Nutrition Department, that lunch lady Shirley Canham (known as Ms. Shirley) admitted to misdirecting lunch money from some students to put into accounts of other students with a deficit, and that Canham had been untruthful about completing her job duties--which included contacting parents about account deficits.

Some parents who spoke with FOX 13 News said the investigation and findings unfairly target Canham.

Ashley Hoopes said, "The blame is being pinned on our lunch lady, and those at the district who were in charge of her are trying to sneak away from taking responsibility. “

Erica Lukes said, "She is, in my eyes, a good, humble human being who has been put in a really bad situation who had no assistance from the administration of our school and definitely no assistance from the school district."

Hoopes adds, "She either fed our children and therefore was lying, or she denied our children food and was following district policy. She couldn't do both."

FOX 13 News’ attempts to reach Canham or her attorney Thursday were unsuccessful. She resigned the day before this school year started.

The District spokesman said they have made several policy changes to prevent a situation like this from happening again. Olsen said all students will get a full lunch no matter their account balance, discussion of account deficits will not involve the child, and he said they will ensure that notices are given out to parents and guardians regarding their students’ account balances.