The mother of a fifth grader at the Jersey Shore says her son has had his school lunch taken from him and thrown away by school staff -- just like a similar case in Utah that made national headlines.
“This to me is a form of bullying," said Amy Ross. Her 10-year-old son Jake attends Smithville Elementary School in Galloway Township, N.J.
As recently as this month, Jake, who has Asperger's syndrome, a form of Autism, has had his hot lunch tossed aside by staff because of an unpaid balance on his lunch account, Ross told NBC10's Ted Greenberg. The mother said the same practice has taken place several times since her son was in third grade and calls it "humiliating."
“It’s between the parents and the cafeteria. It’s not between the child and the lunch lady. Let the kids eat their lunch," she said admitting that she made an oversight with the account.
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Ross, who says notes sent home with her son don't always get to her, said she called the principal last year and received an apology. But, the issue continues to happen.
Dr. Annette Giaquinto, superintendent of Galloway Township Public Schools, told NBC10 that Ross had not made a recent complaint about Jake's food being thrown away.
Giaquinto said it is school policy to replace a child's hot lunch with a cheese sandwich if their account is delinquent.
“Depending on the situation, the child is pulled to the side, spoken to very calmly, and everything is done to both follow the policy but also to respect the child," she said.
Asked by Greenberg whether she felt it is okay to take a hot lunch from students in certain circumstances, Gianquinto said sometimes the situation dictates the decision.
“Well, I believe there are certain times when I think you need to take certain measures and again, I know that sounds cold...is it a practice I love? No," she said.
Ross said she decided to go public with Jake's situation after seeing media reports of the same issue happening in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Salt Lake City School District apologized on Thursday after learning dozens of students were having their lunches thrown away when their school lunch accounts did not have enough money to cover the cost.
School officials say they would like to discuss the issue with Ross and said they left a message for her to call. Ross said she plans to call on Monday.