Last week, 5-year-old John Robert Caravella was denied lunch over an outstanding lunch bill. Caravella has autism and is unable to communicate. He attends a special program for children with autism at Cliffwood Elementary School in Matawan, New Jersey.The school made no effort to contact John Robert’s parents. John and Silvia Caravella. Instead the teacher addressed the matter in a causal note sent home to the parents. Superintendent of schools for the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District, David Healy has ruled that the school officials have done nothing wrong and that it was just a misunderstanding. Cliffwood Elementary School Principal Valerie Ulrich has been unavailable for comment. John
As an educator I was both shocked and amazed that a school would actually deny lunch to any 5-year-old much less one who is unable to communicate. Seriously, children forgetting lunch or not having lunch is a fairly common occurrence especially in elementary schools. All of the schools I have worked in have some sort contingency plan. In a worst, case scenario any decent teacher would cover the cost of lunch. How could the teacher allow any of her student’s to be denied lunch much less one who is unable to communicate. Hope the clueless teacher enjoyed her lunch while denying lunch to a 5-year-old over a measly $2.00.
The amount of the past-due lunch bill really is a shocker. It isn’t uncommon for students to run up large lunch tabs. In my opinion it is unacceptable to deny food to kindergartener over such an insignificant sum.
Healy claims the incident was just a misunderstanding. No, Superintendent Healy it was not a simple misunderstanding. The decisions to deny lunch to John-Robert was child abuse. It is time for action not making excuse. Obviously the staff of Cliffwood Elementary School needs training in sensitive, school policy and autism. I think that would be just a start. A regime change starting with Healy, Ulrich, the teacher and anyone else involved is also warranted.