Employees Fired in School Lunch Scandal

A spokeswoman for the food contractor says the employees who refused food to Coelho Middle School students or made them throw it out were acting against school district policy.

A school lunch scandal in Attleboro that has gained national attention has led to disciplinary action for four employees of the school district food contractor Whitsons, with at least some being fired, a company spokeswoman said at a Friday press conference.

Approximately 25 students at Coelho Middle School this week were denied lunch or forced to throw theirs out if they had insufficient funds on their payment cards.

The Boston Globe reported:

Whitsons School Nutrition said it investigated and found that four workers had violated the school district’s policies by not feeding the students. All of those employees were disciplined and some were fired, an official said.

Holly Von Seggern, vice president for marketing for Whitsons, declined to say how many people lost their jobs or if those people were management employees or cafeteria workers.

"The results of the investigation concluded that several individuals were acting outside of the district's policy on handling pending balances on their meal accounts," Von Seggern told reporters Friday afternoon.

The school district is also conducting its own investigation, various media reported.

ppl plz April 06, 2013 at 10:45 PM
Oh and my guess is this NEVER would have happened during MCAS Testing!!
Alma Buxton April 06, 2013 at 10:57 PM
While I have no children in any MA school system, I do have ties to the city of Attleboro. I was appalled when this story was brought to my attention. Are you so stuck on the fact a few parents had not paid that you are forgetting that CHILDREN WENT HUNGRY on this day. Isn't that more important than whether the parents had paid or not? Of course teachers observed this as did other adults. What a valuable lesson you had the opportunity to teach and let it slide by for fear of what???? Children learn from the adults they admire setting positive examples. Would these adults be upset if one of their children was THEIR child who had a meal physically taken from them? I hope each of you slept well knowing that a child in Attleboro went hungry that day, possibly missing the only meal it would have had all day! SHAME on all who looked the other way and to those writing who can only focus on the parents not paying and a child possibly getting something for free.
Jerry Chase April 06, 2013 at 11:03 PM
Isn't it obvious that the one group in the whole scene that had the least political strength were the ones who eventually suffered the most? The workers got fired, even though they had a verbal order. What's a worker to do??
deb of see-attleboro April 06, 2013 at 11:19 PM
I beg to differ, Jerry. The children went hungry. That is the real sin. I hope the workers will have their day in court. Probably not, though. The machine must march on:(
Anna99 April 07, 2013 at 12:09 AM
I have a feeling that all involved know this won't go away that quickly. I also feel that some parents will be asking lots of questions and demanding answers. I know I will.
paul April 07, 2013 at 10:45 AM
Three wrongs don't make a right. 1. It was wrong for Whitson's to not feed the children. 2. It was wrong for 25 parents to assume that the school is always going to cover for them, don't worry about paying. 3. It was wrong for workers to loose their jobs. I hope all you dead beat parents feel like you're off the hook now that people have been fired. How about next time making sure your kid has cash?
deb of see-attleboro April 07, 2013 at 12:38 PM
paul: Even though I agree that some parents should share the blame in what resulted in children not eating and workers facing disciplinary action, there is a systemic problem with how the service is being delivered. If you have not read through the previous comments, you should. You may think differently about what is "wrong" with this picture.
sad case April 07, 2013 at 12:52 PM
this all started last fall when cheese san. were ruled out by Mr Bowles. a verbal order came from outside to not allow charging.so the meal the kids touched were thrown away when there accounts were empty.this staff was left with a tough call with some of the staff crying they did what they were told to do.when whitsons arrived they said what order (is it in writing).whitsons and the school what this to go away .the sad part is people are losing there jobs
paul April 07, 2013 at 01:03 PM
I read the thread and agree with irishamerican and a few others. It's easy to blame Whitson's now that they fired workers, that's what always happens, some ladies get canned (probably laid off) at the bottom of the food chain. They were given orders to collect cash! Or do you think rogue workers took it upon themselves to play dog the bounty hunter? Whatever the case may be, it all started with lazy parents. My child is in middle school and it's never happened to her. It never happened to me or my siblings in 12 years of public education, good parenting I guess.
sad case April 07, 2013 at 01:10 PM
the work are expendable to a big company that has 80 lunch programs.
sad case April 07, 2013 at 01:16 PM
it cost whitson more to send staff fron N.Y. to put out the fire. Who will sue this are 8-10 per hour moms who work part time
sad case April 07, 2013 at 01:34 PM
take note parents this staff was taking money from there own pockets for the last 2 years to give kids that were short cash!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
deb of see-attleboro April 07, 2013 at 02:34 PM
paul: Do you give your child money daily or do you just keep throwing money on the account?
Sarah Curtis April 07, 2013 at 02:49 PM
I have offered over and over MY free time (up to 40 or more hrs) a week to the Wamsutta school because I want to be a part of my child's education but Administrative staff refuses to allow me to do so? Because I speak up when the district does not comply to our son's IEP?? One has nothing to do with the other. I want to help our schools, help our kids, hell I'll even help these kids who don't have lunch money by working in the caf for free to pay off the balances but I get denied because I speak up and the district hates that! Well simple solution to the problem is just stop doing things wrong, admit it, correct it and lets shake hands and move on... THAT PEOPLE IS HOW WE TEACH OUR CHILDREN LESSONS!!!!
Sarah Curtis April 07, 2013 at 02:55 PM
And when adults start acting like adults, communicating better, working together to find solutions to these problems before they turn into disasters like this, then maybe we will get better responses from our children as well!
Sarah Curtis April 07, 2013 at 02:57 PM
SD April 07, 2013 at 03:03 PM
A few years ago, the custodian at Coelho would also pay for kids to have lunch if he saw that they had no money to eat. Mr. Rose reprimanded him, telling him he could get in trouble if the parents found out.....
paul April 07, 2013 at 03:04 PM
My daughter packs a lunch. Maybe in all this some lessons have been learned by all. Middle School is a place where you grow up a little and students should also know if they have money, their lunch, their homework and what bus to get on.
Sarah Curtis April 07, 2013 at 03:22 PM
@ Paul, true kids do need to grow up and learn responsibility and those lessons are taught at home starting with chores! If we want these kids to start "growing" up then we need our adults that our kids spend most of the day with to act as just that ADULTS! Adults know better, and not for one second do I think the food service workers are the ones to take the full blame here. If they are "contract" workers, someone please tell me why these "contract" workers were left alone in the caf with our children with NOT ONE single member of the school paid staff?? There is no good written all over this.... And I'm sorry some say let this go, but I disagree, letting things like this go just make bigger things next time!!!!
deb of see-attleboro April 07, 2013 at 03:53 PM
That's great, paul. So you have never really had to encounter what some other parents may be dealing with. Say lunch is 2.00 per day. You put 20.00 on your child's card thinking this will last 2 weeks. Seven school days later, your child is telling you she needs more money on her card. You tell her she should have enough money for three more days. You ask her where the money went. She says "I dunno". What would you do? And what happens when they get in high school and all the "good stuff" is a la carte ? Or at least it use to be. Or may be one lunch is not enough? Do you know how fast a teenage boy can blow through $20.00 in a school cafeteria? When I was a kid, everyday my mother just left my lunch money on the kitchen table. And that was all I got. No expense account that could run into arrears. And no surprises for this woman who ran the house on a shoestring.
ppl plz April 07, 2013 at 04:37 PM
First I still believe 5th grade belongs in elementary school but hey I guess I'm old school like that. Now I would love to be so perfect and error free as you and irishamerican. Way to judge these parents. Yes it is their responsibility to provide lunch for their kids (brown bag or money) but some of these kids that were bullied and humiliated didn't have parents expecting a free ride they were off some as little as 5 cents and chances are it was by (gasp) HUMAN ERROR (oh the horror people make mistakes especially on accounts they do not have access to) whether the error was by the caf worker not crediting enough on the account when payment was remitted (hey I've been know to transpose a number) or the kid who did not tell their parents they bought a milk one day and a lunch another day because they didn't like what they brought in or simply forgot it on the bus, or the parent who miscalculated the amount of lunches 20.00 would buy. Yes you will have people that abuse or soak the system and they should be dealt with but certainly not by doing that to those kids! Human Error is not the same as being CRUEL on purpose to children. The people who are capable of being so mean do not belong around children.
CLS April 07, 2013 at 04:37 PM
like I've said before....u should pay first like McDonald's
sad case April 07, 2013 at 04:55 PM
these workers were not alone there were teachers and a vice principle there at the time
deb of see-attleboro April 07, 2013 at 06:16 PM
I agree. In fact, if I were a parent of a school age child, I would close the expense account and insist my child pay daily. For one thing, why should the school and/or contractor have access to your child's eating habits at school and parents can not? Do they collect this information and sell it?
Dragonfly April 07, 2013 at 07:35 PM
ppl plz April 08, 2013 at 01:32 AM
They encourage putting money on the accounts ahead of time to expedite the time in line. Kids today get 20 minutes for lunch that includes getting in line and paying for lunch and clean up. When I was a kid I do remember kids owing because they forgot their money or their lunch so I am not sure that would help the situation we have now. Who knows the irony may be that part of why they started the pay ahead option was to reduce the amount of owing?
MCollins April 08, 2013 at 04:08 PM
According to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESA) out of 630 students at Coelho, 189 (30%) are considered “Low Income”. That is down from 2012’s numbers which was 371 students (57%). http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/analysis/enrollment.aspx?orgcode=00160305&orgtypecode=6 I would suggest that the PTA/PTO, the Attleboro School Counsel along with the Superintendent of Attleboro Public Schools put together a (Lunch/Supply Fund) that everyone (parent/students/community) can donate/contribute to. In the event that a student/family is having financial difficulties, the funds could be used for lunches/supplies without question. If we are truly a community, we should act kindly toward each other, lend a helping hand, be compassionate and think of others first.
Sarah Curtis April 08, 2013 at 05:03 PM
@ MCollins agreed! Regardless of reasons if our students or schools need something others in the community need to reach out and help!! I'm available and willing to help. 40 hrs a week free to lend a hand. I feel for all these individuals involved.
m.m. just April 08, 2013 at 09:11 PM
Generally human beings do love their neighbors as they love themselves. The contractor, the principal, the assistant principal, and each of you who rained blame and shame might consider that any time you point one finger at someone else there are three pointing at you.
awallace April 29, 2013 at 09:44 PM
@Paul, I am not certain that "good parenting" had anything to do with it. If you never ran out of money on your lunch card, then you came from a home that had enough money to feed their kids. This is simply not the way it is for all families in America right now, and I don't think that those families or their children should be publicly humiliated because people like you see the bottom line rather than YOUR NEIGHBORS who need some help. We're Americans: learn to empathize with one another or get out.


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