A group Massachusetts parents are outraged and at least one worker has been placed on administrative leave after about 25 students at Robert J. Coelho Middle School in Attleboro were forced to throw away their lunches over concerns that they could not pay for the food. Parents said that some students cried and went home hungry.
School officials told The Sun Chronicle that Whitson’s, the contractor responsible for providing lunches, made the decision to stop students from eating their lunch if there was not enough credit in the student’s pre-paid account or they were not able to provide cash for the meal. Superintendent Pia Durkin on Wednesday said that the on-site director had been placed on administrative leave and Whitson’s had been instructed not to deny lunch to any student in the future. “There is no way any child in my school district will ever go hungry,” Durkin insisted. “Children need to eat.”
A school policy requires that the cafeteria provide a cheese sandwich and milk to any student who cannot pay for regular meals.
“I’m pissed that when there are people in prison who are getting meals, my daughter, an honor student, is going hungry,” parent John Greaves told the paper, adding that he would have brought lunch money to the school if he had been notified. In a statement provided to WFXT, Whitson’s apologized for the incident.
“We regret that these students were denied meals and agree that this situation should have been handled differently,” the statement said. “We apologize to the students and the community for this incident and are conducting a full investigation.”