• Lunch room employees who denied meals to Attleboro students face termination


    ATTLEBORO, Mass. (MyFoxBoston.com/AP) – A food company says they plan to discipline employees who denied school lunch to students at an Attleboro school.

    During a press conference on Friday, a spokesperson for Whitsons Culinary Group of Islandia, N.Y., said the disciplinary measures would include termination. They would not say how many employees would be terminated, citing privacy issues.

    As many as 25 students at Coelho Middle School were denied lunch Tuesday — with some forced to dump their food in the garbage — because they couldn't pay, school officials and parents said.

    Outraged parents said some students at Coelho cried when they were told by a worker for the district's food service provider they could not eat on Tuesday because they couldn't pay or their pre-paid accounts were short on funds.

    Students who cannot pay or whose accounts are empty are supposed to be given a cheese sandwich and milk, but that procedure was not followed at Coelho, Durkin said.

    "We agree that this situation was not handled correctly," Whitsons spokeswoman Holly Von Seggern said. "We really want to apologize to the parents of the children who were affected."

    Fifth-grader Victoria Greaves said she and other students who had already been served their lunch were told to throw it in the trash when they reached the checkout.

    Whitsons says they are taking steps going forward to make sure another incident will not happen again. Some changes include having management teams on-site to supervise. They will also handle outstanding balances with parents directly, rather than passing the balances on to the school district.

    Between Wednesday and Friday of next week, the food company plans to offer free lunch to students at the middle school. They say they are also planning to host a barbecue for the students.

    Following Tuesday's incident, the on-site director for the company, Whitsons Culinary Group of Islandia, N.Y., was placed on administrative leave by Superintendent Pia Durkin, who has also scheduled a meeting with company officials and ordered cafeteria workers not to deny any child food.

    Durkin said she was informed by Whitsons management that the total amount of outstanding credit on all students' accounts in the district comes to about $1,800.

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