Just because kids eat a bunch of junk all day doesn’t mean the dumpster makes a suitable serving plate. But a teacher at Fletcher Elementary in Orange is taking heat after forcing a seven-year-old student to eat an entree that was salvaged from the garbage can. Second-grader Armando Medrano threw away the chicken from his (probably crappy) cafeteria meal late last month, after eating only his tortillas. Torn between the world’s surging mountain of food waste, the national effort to improve school lunches, and the perils of childhood obesity, the boy’s former kindergarten teacher chose "A," and pressured him to consume the offending chicken. Despite an outcry from the parents and local papers, the school principal is strangely yet to discipline the teacher, while Medrano has changed schools, and no doubt there’s some Freegan out there hoping to take over his cubby. [OCR]
Anne Truex, the Orange Unified School District’s executive director for elementary education, said the teacher did not handle the matter appropriately and that the district would be reminding all teachers how to properly encourage kids to eat their food.
Fletcher Principal Helen Chung and the teacher did not return phone calls Tuesday seeking comment. Chung was out sick Monday and Tuesday; school office manager Martha Landry, who was in charge of the campus, referred calls to the district office.
Renee and Damian Medrano said their son initially didn’t tell them about the incident; instead, he simply requested that they begin making lunch for him daily.
When his father pushed him for a reason, he acknowledged that the teacher had witnessed him throw away his entrée as he walked by an outdoor trash can at the start of the lunch period. The trash can had other items in it when Armando’s teacher pulled it out, Armando said.
"She said maybe tell my parents not to waste their money and maybe bring my own lunch," Armando said. "She told me I need to eat it and try it. It made me feel sad."
Armando said he had tried the chicken fajita entrée before and knew he didn’t like it. Even so, he ate the tortillas that day and threw away the chicken, he said.
"He was embarrassed and scared to tell us because he thought he would get in trouble," Renee Medrano said. She said she confronted the teacher and principal last week about the incident. Both acknowledged what had happened, but rather than set forth a corrective course of action, they appeared defensive, Renee Medrano said.
Feeling the school had not responded adequately to the matter and an unrelated incident last year - in which an older student allegedly violently threatened their son - the Medranos decided last week to transfer Armando to a nearby district school, Olive Elementary, they said.
They’re also sending Armando to school with a homemade lunch every day.
"Had we felt they were truly sorry and not so defensive, we would have let it go," Renee Medrano said. "But the principal just kept saying over and over that the teacher had the right intentions and the wrong actions."