Education

Hoke County school board chews lunch controversy

Posted March 19, 2012
Updated March 23, 2012

— The Hoke County school board called a special meeting Monday to digest all of the circumstances surrounding a school lunch controversy that gained national attention and led to the resignation of a pre-kindergarten teacher.

Nick Sojka, attorney for the school system, said that Margaret Maynor, who taught for four years at West Hoke Elementary School, was being investigated for her role in replacing the homemade lunches of three students with food from the school cafeteria before resigning last month.

In one case, school officials said Maynor told a 4-year-old girl that the lunch her mother had packed for her – consisting of a turkey and cheese sandwich, a banana, apple juice and potato chips – did not meet the nutritional guidelines set by the state for pre-K programs. The child wound up going through the cafeteria line and getting a full lunch of chicken nuggets provided by the school.

The school said Maynor made a mistake, and that she should have gone to the cafeteria and gotten the missing nutritional item – a carton of milk – for the girl.

Sojka said it wasn't clear whether Maynor instructed the girl to get a full school lunch or whether the child did so out of confusion, but he said the teacher was ultimately responsible.

"These are very young children. The procedure is that the food be brought to the child's place, rather than send the kids through the lunch line," Sojka said. "We don't typically see those children make those decisions on their own. (Maynor) was the classroom teacher."

While school leaders looked into the flap, Maynor was placed on leave, Sojka said, not because of the lunch situation, but because she did not fully cooperate with the investigation. 

"In the course of investigating this matter, there was inaccurate and contradictory information provided to administrators," he said.

Paperwork at Monday night's meeting included an interview transcript with the teacher in which she told school officials that she did not remember sending the student through the lunch line on Jan. 31. After several rounds of questions, she said she did remember sending the child through the line and said she was confused about the date in question and thought they were asking about Jan. 26.

After her resignation, parents spoke out in support of Maynor, saying the school system used her as a scapegoat to cover up intrusive policies of inspecting children's homemade lunches. The controversy even caught the attention of national news outlets and conservative bloggers, who accused the school of being "food police."

While Sojka acknowledged that pre-K teachers are supposed to supplement any missing nutritional item in a student's packed lunch with items from the cafeteria, he said the school does not inspect lunch boxes.

"Hoke County schools are not the lunch police," he said. "There is no requirement or mandate that lunches be searched."

114 Comments

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  • Plenty Coups Mar 20, 5:20 p.m.

    2headstrong-" In making a bad call and then lying about her actions, a teacher has cost herself a job. "

    Yes, she made a bad decision in an apparent misunderstanding about the policy after a directive from a state representative. She was trying to do the right thing. But this inconsequential action wouldn't have cost her her job if it hadn't of been for the lies from talk radio that made this into such an issue. All this hoopla over basically nothing. Wonder if Rush Limbaugh or anyone from Carolina Journal will lose their jobs over their outright lies. (Calling the state inspector a "federal inspector", pretending Obama was behind it etc.)

  • 2headstrong Mar 20, 4:23 p.m.

    "This option was provided not because of some overarching, generally applicable law or regulation, but because the program in which her mother and school voluntarily participate requires such an option be available."

    That's fine, but in this case it was incorrectly implemented. The child's lunch clearly included dairy in the form of cheese. In making a bad call and then lying about her actions, a teacher has cost herself a job.

    One note: in the quote above, the word "option" is used. The impression I'm being left with from all the articles on this topic is that it is not an option, but a (draconian, in my opinion) requirement that they provide the 'missing' items.

  • RM24 Mar 20, 3:54 p.m.

    I agree, but sadly, many parents don't know or it isn't a priority with them. But should the kids suffer?
    Plenty Coups

    No kids should not suffer. And I don't agree with doing away with free lunch or even welfare. Both were great ideas that were needed but over time have been abused. Both have gone from the people on them being émberassed by it to now they are so common people almost feel proud they get it. Like it was "owed" to them. Its societys fault in general. Excuses have become accepted and the norm. And until these things change and people accept accountability/responsibility then things will only get worse!

  • missdix Mar 20, 3:06 p.m.

    Plenty Coups - Thank you for stating the facts. This cannot be said enough..."This option was provided not because of some overarching, generally applicable law or regulation, but because the program in which her mother and school voluntarily participate requires such an option be available."

    The PreK program is administered by the State of NC and is subject to specific rules and regulations which have nothing to do with current political tides. These guidelines have been in effect long before Michelle Obama turned up in Washington.

    Of course one wants all children to grow up in homes where they are cared for, education and work ethics are valued, etc. But that is not the reality of our world. So, as a taxpayer, would you rather spend money on the front end for PreK, to prepare students for formal schooling, or spend it on the back end, building more prisons?

  • fl2nc2ca2md2nc Mar 20, 2:17 p.m.

    "The USDA is lying about what foods are nutritious? Please provide proof."

    Believe what you want. And I never said they were overtly lying to us. But there is a revolving door between the USDA, the FDA, and big business which allows a lot of nastiness to be introduced into our food supply. There's plenty of new evidence out there if you look. The mass produced food in this country is junk and is contributing to a plethora of disease. Food in general contains a fraction of the nutritional content than it did just a few decades ago. Go big pharma!

  • Plenty Coups Mar 20, 1:44 p.m.

    "It has everything to do with a corrupt system in which the USDA can feed us a line of bull when it comes to what they say is nutritious."

    The USDA is lying about what foods are nutritious? Please provide proof.

  • Plenty Coups Mar 20, 1:44 p.m.

    "Kids getting lunch money should be on a parents priority list. Kids eating is a pretty important thing and should come before other wastful spending of the parents! "

    I agree, but sadly, many parents don't know or it isn't a priority with them. But should the kids suffer?

  • bill0 Mar 20, 1:15 p.m.

    "Cost does not always reflect quality."

    While that is true once you reach a certain cost level, it is 100% false at the bottom end of the scale. If you only spend a few pennies per kid, you are going to get pure junk. There really is no way around that. Actual, real chicken costs more than chicken leftovers pressed into a nugget shape. Having human beings prep and cook food each day is more expensive then just opening up containers from a factory.

  • Sherlock Mar 20, 1:11 p.m.

    I just heard that Hoke County has hired TSA to check all lunches brought to school property, this includes the use of patting the lunch bag or box for large container of apple juice, tubes of peanut butter, also a ramdom selection will be x-ray for any twinkes and other non-government or school approved food items....

  • Sherlock Mar 20, 1:07 p.m.

    See, the school board is great at passing the blame and not taking the hit. The Hoke County school board is all ways right. They will tell you theythough they had made a mistake one, but they found they were wrong,....

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