School district responds after girl with special needs served lunch from trash

Posted at 3:30 PM, Aug 21, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-21 19:00:08-04

PLEASANT GROVE, Utah – An eighth grade student with special needs said she feels too humiliated to return to school after she was served lunch from a trash can, and now school officials are offering further details about the incident and the steps they have taken in response.

Sierra Prince attends Pleasant Grove Junior High School, and earlier this week she was served pizza from the trash after she arrived late for lunch. Sierra and her mother spoke to FOX 13 News Wednesday about the incident, click here for their comments.

Thursday, officials with the Alpine School District said two lunch employees and an aide were involved in the decision to give Sierra pizza from the trash.

Kimberly Bird, Alpine School District Spokeswoman, said because Sierra has diabetes, there was some uncertainty among the staff regarding what she could be served at lunch time. Sierra had been given insulin on the assumption she would be having pizza for lunch, but, by the time she arrived, staff were already cleaning up after lunch.

“In this particular case, the lunch manager, not understanding everything, was told that pizza was what her insulin--that she had just received 15 minutes earlier, the [carbohydrate] count was for pizza,” Bird said. “And her not knowing the particulars thought that was the only thing she could have and therefore made a poor decision.”

Nicole Cordova, Sierra’s mother, said the staff should have contacted her instead of serving Sierra from the trash.

She said: “They should have called me and said, ‘Hey, guess what? Sierra is late to lunch. We're out of pizza. We’re sorry. What can we do to make up these 30 [carbohydrates] that she’s been dosed for?”

The lunch manager has been placed on administrative leave, and the aide who is helping Sierra will be undergoing training regarding the issue. Bird said they are still looking into the incident.

“We want to give due process to our employee as well and make sure that we are getting her side of the story,” Bird said.

Cordova said she is talking with an attorney to determine if her daughter's rights were violated and is meeting with school leaders Thursday. She said she wants things made right.

“I want them to apologize to my daughter, I want them to make her feel better,” she said. “It didn’t happen to me, I'm just her voice, I'm just her mom.”

The family said Sierra has been spending more time at home and feels embarrassed about returning to school.

"If she doesn't want to go  back to that school, we may have to change school districts for her," Cordova said.