Thought you’ve heard it all, didn’t you? Covering parents news, I thought I did, too. Yet every week or so, I’ll come across another story that startles me. Not too long ago, I wrote about the 3-year-old autistic by who was forced to endure a 5-hour bus ride home from school and arrived home hungry, soiled, and traumatized.
This morning I heard another harrowing tale of Silvia and John Caravella, and their 5-year-old son John Robert.
John Robert is a kindergartner at Cliffwood Elementary in Cliffwood, New Jersey, and this is his first year at the new school. His day typically lasts from 9 am- 4 pm.
On Tuesday, his mother was shocked when John Robert came home irritable and found a note in backpack that left her outraged.
The note from his teacher said:
“John Robert was not able to get lunch today he ate his muffins. There is an issue with an outstanding bill.”
(Click here to view the hand-written note.)
At first, his mother, Mrs. Caravella couldn’t understand what it meant because she couldn’t believe that a school would deny a $2.30 lunch to a special needs child, “I couldn’t comprehend it. I kept re-reading it, thinking maybe I’m missing something here. I mean, where is the human decency factor?”
The NY Daily News reports that Mrs. Caravella admits she was confused about how the lunch payment process worked and she went online immediately to add money to the account when she found the note. She also emailed the teacher, the principal and the superintendent to see if what she read was a mistake but the school replied, that now that the account had been filled, John Robert would get his lunch from now on. No apology or further explanation was given. That infuriated Mrs. Caravella even more since they confirmed that they purposely denied her son food because she owed $8. Even more disturbing is the fact that both parents work nearby and say they could have every easily paid the bill or brought food for their son.
The issue here isn’t the $8; it’s the callousness of a school staff that would deny a child, any child, special needs or otherwise, a lunch. I have witnessed kids who have arrived to school with no lunch and have seen lunch ladies or parents give the child a sandwich and a drink. It’s the compassionate thing to do. How can anyone deny lunch to a Kindergartner who is in school for nearly eight hours per day? It’s especially disturbing knowing that the child has trouble communicating.
Surely, the $8 outstanding was an oversight or a like the parents said, they simply weren’t sure when payments were due. A simple phone call could have changed that. The parents could have and possibly would have called the school to inquire, but the school certainly should have sent home a letter or called the parents before ever thinking that not feeding a little boy with special needs was the right choice. And what was the teacher who enforced the ridiculous rule thinking?
What is the policy at your child’s school? Would they ever deny your child lunch for a late payment?
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