The Raeford, N.C. teacher behind at least one incident where a four-year-old's lunch was replaced for not being healthy enough has been suspended indefinitely, according to a letter sent home to parents.
Last month, The Blaze reported on the initial incident and also a separate incident brought to our attention by a second mother. Both lunches included meat-and-cheese sandwiches and apple juice. They were replaced with school meals involving chicken nuggets.
The letter, sent from Hoke County Assistant Superintendent Robert Barnes and dated Feb. 28, does not mention the teacher by name, but rather references her replacement:
“As I am sure you are aware, we recently experienced an unfortunate situation where a failure to follow district policy resulted in the substitution of a Pre-K student’s lunch at West Hoke Elementary School.This letter is to inform you that Ms. Emma Thomas will be a substitute in [your child’s] classroom until we can bring resolution to this issue. We are pleased that [your child] is enrolled in our Pre-K program and we are confident that Ms. Thomas will continue to provide [him or her] with a very positive educational experience.”
But according to email exchanges between the Carolina Journal and the state agency responsible for policing students' food, the teacher didn't do anything wrong, raising the question of why she was suspended:
Giving the girl a full cafeteria tray, which included chicken nuggets and milk, was not a violation of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ policy, according to DHHS spokeswoman Lori Walston.
“The rules require that the provider at least ensure the missing items are offered,” Walston wrote in an earlier email exchange with CJ. “It would not be a violation for a child to be provided more than what was needed. It is the provider’s choice as to their specific process.”
It is unclear why giving the girl the cafeteria tray violated “district policy.”
That has the mother behind the incident confused. According to her, it's the government food policing that should be suspended, not the teacher.
“We are concerned for Ms. Maynor [the teacher] and want her back in the classroom, as she was only following guidelines,” she wrote in an email to her state representative, Republican G.L. Pridgen of Robeson County, according to the Journal. “It’s the government that needs to be reprimanded and changed. Teachers should not be put in a situation to overrule the parent’s lunch of choice.”
DHHS has defended its program, and explained to the Journal how it works:
The Division of Child Development and Early Education at the N.C. Division of Health and Human Services supervises the NC Pre-K program. If a parent sends a child to school with a lunch that lacks any of the listed items, “The rules require that the provider supplement a lunch with any missing components. How a provider chooses to do that is up to them,” DHHS spokeswoman Lori Walston wrote in an email.
The Jan. 26 infraction was noted by Cecelia Ellerbe, a child care consultant who works for the DHHS division. Walston told CJ Ellerbe “observed the lunch routine” at the preschool, which “would typically include walking through the cafeteria area. She could have seen any items that had been placed on tables, but might not have seen all lunches,” Walston said.
According to Pridgen (via the Journal and WTVD-TV), the lunch replacing on Jan. 30 involved several students and could have included all the students in that class on that day.
And to cap it all off, the school continued to give the first little girl milk everyday to supplement her lunch, despite directions from her mother not to do so. It's unclear if that has now stopped as a result of the teacher's suspension.
School officials declined to comment to the Journal and WTVD-TV.
(H/T: Daily Caller)