A number of students at Richlands High School in Richlands, Virginia, were denied lunch on Feb. 4 due to a miscommunication between the school's principal and cafeteria staff.
The Richlands High School principal, Kim Ringstaff, said that the miscommunication arose when she gave cafeteria workers a list of 15 students who were no longer allowed to purchase lunches because they had large debts on their accounts, according to WSLS 10.
Ringstaff said she had met with the students beforehand and told them that they could no longer charge for lunches and had to either start bringing their own sack lunches to school or apply to the district's free and reduced lunch program.
However, cafeteria staff misunderstood Ringstaff's directive and denied lunch to all students who had any outstanding debt on their accounts. As a result, many students who had already filled up their trays were not allowed to charge for them and had to give them back.
"Even a kid with a fifty cent charge on their account was not allowed to get a tray and that was not my directive to them," Ringstaff said.
Students at the Tazewell County high school said they were upset over the incident.
"It doesn't matter if it's one tray or 50 trays … trays were taken away from these students that are in their care," Richlands High student Alexis Patrick commented to WJHL.
"It's their responsibility," she added.
"I think it's ridiculous … it's a sad day when you take trays from children at school because they don't have money," Richlands High parent Frances Johnson told WJHL.
"It may be their only meal of the day," said Jordyn Hale, a local resident who collected donations to supply needy students with sack lunches.
Although the school apologized for the incident on its Facebook page, some Richlands High parents are still calling for Ringstaff's resignation. A Change.org petition asking the principal to resign has gathered over 6,000 signatures as of Feb. 8.
Lunch debt is reportedly a serious issue at the high school, with outstanding charges for all students totaling $4,555, according to WSLS 10. Some of the 15 students on Ringstaff's list owed as much as $150.