Principal Fired for Standing Up for Free-Lunch Kids

Noelle Roni claims that she was fired after she demanded school officials stop the practice of hand-stamping kids who receive free lunch. 

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Noelle Roni

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A former principal at a Colorado charter elementary school claims that she was fired after she tried to stop a school policy that she believed embarrassed kids who received free lunch, Rawstory reports.

Noelle Roni, former principal at Peak to Peak Charter School, revealed in an interview published by the Daily Camera on Monday that her disagreement with the school, which she believes led to her firing, was over the stamping of children’s hands if they received free lunch or did not have enough money in their school account to pay for lunch.

"As soon as I saw it happening, I was like, 'No, this is not OK,' " Roni told the Daily Camera. "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 an email sent to parents last November, the school claims that the former principal's firing was not a form of retaliation for Roni's complaint stating that she was in a hostile work environment, Rawstory reports.

Roni’s lawyer explained in a memo that she asked cafeteria workers to stop stamping the hands of children who couldn’t afford lunch. Cafeteria workers continued stamping children’s hands, so Roni met with the food-services manager and other school leaders, Rawstory reports.

Everyone agreed that the stamping practice should stop, according to a memo. The food-services manager resigned, and Roni’s lawyer believes a disciplinary letter was placed in her file for "unprofessional conduct" after she refused to take the blame for the food-services manager’s resignation, Rawstory reports.

Rawstory reports that three weeks after cafeteria workers agreed to stop the hand-stamping practice, Roni says Evelyn Bernstein, a grandparent who was upset that her grandchildren were still getting their hand stamped, contacted her.

Bernstein later told the Daily Camera that her grandson was given a cheese sandwich while the rest of the children were given pizza, a discrepancy she believes is because her grandson qualifies for free lunch. Bernstein said that the child was embarrassed and did not want to eat a hot lunch at the school again.

Peak to Peak’s board of directors did not address allegations regarding hand-stamping, but said in a statement that "Peak to Peak does not condone or tolerate unlawful retaliation," Rawstory reports.

Roni believes that she became a target of the school system by standing up for free-lunch kids.

"[Executive Director Kelly Reeser] used this incident and my stance against it as an example of my being unprofessional and insubordinate, which eventually led to me being terminated," Roni told the Daily Camera. "You put kids first. That’s more important than whether I’m going to get along with my co-worker."

Read more at Rawstory and Daily Camera.

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