LORAIN, Ohio — The Lorain City Schools superintendent has followed a recommendation from the district's school board to fire the principal and staff member who allegedly forced a student to eat food from a garbage can.
The investigation into the staff members accused of feeding the student the food was part of a disciplinary hearing on Dec. 13, where surveillance footage from the cafeteria was shown.
After Superintendent Dr. Jeff Graham reviewed the video, he reported his intention to fire Palm Elementary School's principal and the staff member involved.
The staff member involved in the incident was fired on Thursday.
The principal will be given a 10-day notice and is able to appeal their decision. However, she has lost her title as principal immediately, according to Graham.
Earlier this month, the district was informed by a parent that her daughter was forced to eat food from a cafeteria garbage can after she decided she didn't want the meal after a few bites and wanted something else.
The parents of the student have filed a lawsuit against the district.
According to the lawsuit, the school offers two options for lunch each day. The student asked if she could have something else to eat but was told by the principal that she would need to finish what was on her tray. Unsatisfied with her meal choice, the student got up, walked to a garbage can, and threw her food away.
Another school employee then removed the waffles from the garbage and told the student to go get a paper towel.
The suit states the student didn't understand why she needed to go find a paper towel but did so because she wanted to obey the adult. She then brought the paper towel back to the employee and was told to "go sit down and that she would be required to eat the waffles" that were removed from the garbage. The employee then stood over her and forced the student to eat the discarded food while other children at the lunch table laughed at her. The girl immediately started feeling ill, and when she got home, told her mother what occurred at school that day.
According to the suit, the student developed a fever and was taken to a doctor. Additionally, the student has had to undergo mental health treatment for the "humiliating actions," and her Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated.
"This isn't another student trying to convince them to do something silly or to eat something, this is an educator punishing this girl by forcing her to eat garbage," said attorney Jared Klevanow, who filed the lawsuit.
The suit states that in addition to becoming ill from eating food from the garbage, the student suffered "significant emotional distress, pain, and suffering." No other students were forced to eat discarded food out of the garbage, it said.
The lawsuit also alleges there was racial bias to the incident, with the employee being white and the student being Black.
The suit alleges the school employee who forced the child to eat from the garbage likely knew it would "inflict serious emotional and mental injury on a child when she harassed, bullied and forced the child to eat food taken out of the garbage." Furthermore, the employee's "actions exceed all reasonable bounds of decency and is intolerable in a civilized society."
"It's despicable, it's disgusting and it's just hurtful," said Klevanow. "It's just hurtful to know that members of our community would treat children this way. There's no excuse. There's no reason and the city of Lorain School District has failed this family and this child."
The lawsuit seeks compensatory, exemplary, and punitive damages from the employee and the school district, as well as attorney fees and costs.