Emails show principal asked some parents to stay quiet about school lunch snafu

Posted at 10:00 PM, Feb 13, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-14 00:00:31-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Uintah Elementary School’s beloved lunch lady was back at work Thursday.

"Miss Shirley" was welcomed with flowers, candy and letters from the students, but she has yet to get an apology from the school, according to emails obtained by FOX 13 News.

We've also learned the principal is telling parents to keep quiet. It's been weeks since nearly 40 Uintah Elementary school students' lunches were either taken away or thrown away because of negative account balances.

The Salt Lake City School District is not only investigating the incident, but making policy changes and while most parents are now beginning to shy away from our cameras, one mom is speaking out and saying the principal is asking them to stop talking to the media.

"It felt a little bit like an intimidation and it worked,” said Ashely Hoopes, who has a daughter who attends Uintah Elementary School. “To be honest, some of the parents, they just felt horrible.”

In an email chain obtained by FOX 13 News, the Principal of Uintah, Chelsea Malouf, writes "Every time one of you speaks on camera, radio or for a newspaper, you tie Uintah as the perpetrator of injustice. This media publicity puts every child and staff member at Uintah at risk."

Hoopes said the warning was sent to parents who were vocal about what happened when dozens of school kids' lunches were taken away.

"To basically be told not only by our principal, but by our school board representatives Heather Bennett and Laurel Young, that, ‘Hey, we don't want to hear it, that basically as parents you don't have a voice,’" Hoopes said.

Jason Olsen, the spokesman for the Salt Lake City School District, said he's not aware of the email but believes Uintah's principal has her students best interest at heart.

"I haven't seen that email,” he said. “I have talked to the principal many times. She is concerned about her students and the safety of her school.”

Meantime, Miss Shirley, Uintah's lunch lady, who was put on leave after the lunch debacle,is now back at work.

"Gifts and cards, candy and flowers for Shirley, this darling cafeteria worker that has kind of been the face of this whole thing, the kids have missed her, the parents have missed her," Hoopes said.

Students and even parents welcomed her back with open arms, but in another email, Malouf writes to one parent, "there will not be an apology to her directly until the investigation is finalized."

Olsen can't comment on personnel issues but assures parents, "We made a promise to them that this would never happen again or something like this would never happen again, so there have been changes put in place to make sure that happens.”

He goes on to say the district's investigation is still ongoing, but, so far, they have new policies in place that include a commitment that no student will be denied a lunch in the future.