School Fires Principal For Not Shaming Low Income Kids With Hand Stamps

Principal fired for not shaming free lunch kids with hand stamps

What should a school principal do when she finds that kids with no money in their lunch accounts get shamed with a cheese sandwich and a stamp on the hand? Photo courtesy of ex-Peak to Peak principal Noelle Roni via the Boulder Daily Camera.

What would you do if you were a school principal, and you found out that students with empty lunch account balances were being shamed with a stamp on their hand, and got nothing to eat but a cheese sandwich? Worse, the food service workers had also been doing this to kids who were supposed to be getting free school lunches. When parents at the Peak to Peak charter school in Lafayette, CO complained to Principal Noelle Roni back in September, she tried to put an end to the hand-stamping.

Then, in Nov. 2013, Principal Roni got fired.

Why was the principal fired after sticking up for her students?

After two months of silence, ex-Principal Noelle Roni spoke with the Boulder Daily Camera to share her version of what had happened.

“As soon as I saw it happening, I was like, ‘No, this is not OK,’. The students felt so humiliated, like they had done something wrong. They didn’t want to go into the lunchroom any more. It’s unethical and disrespectful.”

In the aftermath of the firing, the Boulder Daily Camera reported that the school board confirmed that they had fired Principal Noelle Roni, but did not say why she had been fired. They also denied claims that Roni had been fired in retaliation for demanding that the school stop hand-stamping students with empty lunch accounts.

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Here’s a timeline of events for the Principal’s firing.

(1) Early Sept. — Principal Roni tries to end the hand-stamping. First, Principal Noelle Roni asked the manager of food services to stop stamping the students’ hands. When the hand-stamping didn’t stop, the principal took up the issue with the school’s leadership in a meeting. The school sided with Roni, but the food services manager quit.

(2) Sept. 19th, 2013 — Principal Roni gets a nasty disciplinary letter in her file. Executive Director of Education Kelly Reeser sent Principal Roni a nasty memo that blamed her for the food services manager quitting, demanded that she “take responsibility.”

(3) November 1st, 2013 –Principal Roni gets fired. On Nov. 1, Executive Director of Education Kelly Reeser abruptly fired Roni — even though Roni had served as principal at the school for eight years and had received good reviews for her job performance.

Roni told the Boulder Daily Camera that the school offered to pay her for the rest of the year if she agreed to remain silent about what had happened. Roni refused to do so.

“I had no intention of signing this offer for it would have put me in a position of not being able to explain myself to the community I love. It would also prevent me from trying to undo the damage that continues to be waged on my reputation and character by the ongoing speculation.”

School parents rally around the ex-principal.

Of course, many school parents are angry with the school board for firing their principal without due process. After a raucus school board meeting on Nov. 14th, parents launched a recall effort to replace two members of the Peak to Peak school board. A page on the parents’ website, titled “Why the Fuss,” explains why they feel so angry.

The reputation of our school has been harmed. Our community has been disrupted. A terrible message has been sent to our teachers and other staff. Many parents and students are upset. A member of our community has been treated badly. Was this necessary?

Other schools in the district don’t let kids go hungry.

It turns out that Peak to Peak’s hand-stamping and cheese sandwiches isn’t even in line with policies for other schools in the Boulder Valley (CO) School District. The Daily Boulder Camera spoke with Anne Cooper, the school district’s food services director. She said that the school district used to stamp kids’ hands and give them cheese sandwiches when their accounts lacked funds, but that they hadn’t done this in the five years since she took over. Cooper added:

“It’s really important that we feed kids. They shouldn’t be hungry because of a parent issue.”