Principal Noelle Roni of Peak to Peak Elementary School was fired for refusing to stamp the hands of children when their lunch accounts were empty.
“As soon as I saw it happening, I was like, ‘No, this is not OK,’” she told the Daily Camera. “The students felt so humiliated, like they had done something wrong. They didn’t want to go into the lunchroom any more. It’s unethical and disrespectful.”
Roni was speaking for the first time since she was fired in the fall of 2013.
Roni says her firing wasn’t valid because an administrator fired her, as opposed to a public vote, according to a memo prepared by her lawyer.
“The violation of the open meetings law is part of an ongoing pattern of conduct by the board to terminate Ms. Roni without the knowledge or participation of the school membership or, indeed, Ms. Roni herself,” Alexander Halpern wrote in the memo.
Roni was a principal at the school in Colorado for nine years. She had tried to put a stop to the hand stamping, particularly feeling that school staff were doing wrong by children who qualify for the free lunch program. A grandmother of some of these children told Roni that her grandchildren were too embarrassed to go through the lunch line.
The internal strife over the attempt ended with Roni getting fired and the food services manager, who didn’t want to stop, resigning.
“The kids are humiliated. They’re branded. It’s disrespectful. Where’s the human compassion? And these are little children,” she told CBS.
She spoke with her superiors, whose reaction surprised her.
“I was shocked that their reaction was not outrage. That it was more of ‘Who are you to tell us not to do this?’ ” she said.
Peak to Peak’s board of directors said in a written statement that they can’t comment on personnel issues, but that “Peak to Peak does not condone or tolerate unlawful retaliation.”
School attorney Barry Arrington added that “Three outside lawyers agree her claims are baseless.”