School district official: Staff who served student lunch from trash did so out of ‘panic’

Posted at 9:41 PM, Aug 21, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-21 23:41:43-04

PLEASANT GROVE, Utah – School administrators apologized to a mother in a meeting Thursday after her daughter was served pizza from a trash can earlier this week.

Sierra Prince is an eighth grade student with special needs who attends Pleasant Grove Junior High School, and she said she feels too humiliated to return to school after she was served a piece of pizza at lunch that came from a trash can.

School district officials spoke about the staff’s decision to give Sierra the pizza, saying that confusion over the girl’s dietary needs played a role. Sierra has diabetes and had been given insulin prior to the meal in question, and the lunch staff thought the dose she had been given meant pizza was the only option, officials said.

Alpine School District Spokeswoman Kimberly Bird said the school-appointed aide who helps Sierra, who has learning disabilities, had a few days of training but had not yet been able to meet with Sierra’s mother for training specific to Sierra’s needs.

"We rely heavily on the training of the parent with us, because it's the parent who knows their child the best, and the parent is visiting with that doctor and knows specific information about that child's needs,” she said.

Officials said a scheduling conflict prevented Nicole Cordova, Sierra’s mother, from meeting the aide to go over those needs. Bird said the aide was working with Sierra for the first time on Wednesday and made a decision out of panic.

"It was a poor decision made in, what they thought was going to be in the best interest of the child, in panic, that insulin shock, you know, would take place because they didn't have that pizza,” Bird said.

Cordova said she thinks the school should have been better prepared.

"I think there is a big enough epidemic of Type 1 diabetes that the school should be prepared, they should be set up to handle special needs children,” she said. “They should already have [carbohydrate] counts on their menus, just like McDonald's has to provide them, why doesn't the school have to provide it?"

Alpine School District officials said they will consider those suggestions, but they said overall they feel the program of school-appointed aides works well. Officials said Sierra will be working with a new aide when she returns to school, and they said that aide will have had additional training.

"We did discuss the need for an early training for diabetic needs with the 504 training,” Bird said. “We do offer that training during the school year, but we don't offer it prior to school beginning, and so that is a change that the district will be looking at."

Sierra’s mother said Sierra plans to return to school Monday, but she said they are worried about potential bullying regarding the incident.