Students say they were denied lunch at school

At Coelho Middle School the phrase rings true: there's no such thing as a free lunch.

Students were told if they didn't have enough money on their pre-paid lunch cards they had to throw out their food. Jo-An Blanchard's son was one of them.

"He said because I was a dollar short they made me throw my lunch away and I couldn't eat," Blanchard said.

"I apologize to all parents on behalf of Whitson's. This sort of thing should never happen at any school especially at Attleboro Public Schools," Coelho Principal Andrew Boles said Wednesday.

The school blames the food vendor, Whitson's Culinary Group.

Boles said cafeteria workers are contracted through Whitson's and they made the decision to deny kids food.

"I told him this is bullying, neglect, child abuse. You can't do that to children," Blanchard said.

Boles said none of the teachers knew about the incident until well after the fact.

Usually if parents owe money they are given a three day "grace period" and a written warning saying they have a negative balance. Blanchard said her son received none of these.

Federal subsidies also require that schools at least feed students a grilled cheese sandwich if they aren't on free or reduced lunches but still cannot pay. This option was seen as controversial when introduced back in 2011.

Whitson's Culinary Group did not respond to NBC 10's repeated requests for an interview and calls were not returned.

"I'm appalled by Whitson's actions and we'll be taking the necessary measures to ensure that this never happens again," Boles said.

The incident is still under investigation.

The school met with Whitson's and spoke with several parents Wednesday to determine exactly what transpired in the cafeteria. Boles says he hopes to reimburse parents for their trouble.

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