A New Jersey grammar school let a special needs student go hungry instead of contacting his parents over an unpaid bill, according to several reports. Despite an apology from the school district, the parents may now transfer the boy to a private school, according to Fox News.
John Robert Caravella, a 5-year-old kindergartner with autism, was denied a $2.30 meal by Cliffwood Elementary School in Matawan because his parents had yet to settle an $8 charge that was just a few days overdue, reports the Newark Star-Ledger.
The boy is unable to speak, so parents John and Silvia Caravella only learned of the school's controversial move when John Robert came home Tuesday with a note from his teacher that read: “John Robert was not able to get lunch today [sic] he ate his muffins. There is an issue with an outstanding bill.”
The mini-muffins were intended for the boy's snack, not as a substitute for a lunch that was supposed to fortify him for a seven-hour day, the New York Daily News noted. John Robert sat in the cafeteria at lunchtime and watched others eat. "I kept re-reading [the note], thinking maybe I’m missing something here,” the mother told the Daily News. “I mean, where is the human decency factor?”
The incident happened just days after a 3-year-old autistic boy was subjected to a five-hour bus ride from Manhattan to Brooklyn without a food or bathroom break. The boy arrived home delirious, starving and with a full diaper, his mother said. The ride normally takes 40 minutes, but the bus company admitted to "routing issues."
In the New Jersey case, John Robert's parents, who said they were confused by the meal plan billing system, have since paid up, but told ABC Eyewitness News that the school's dismissive attitude and failure to contact them so their son could eat has left them frustrated. The two work in the area, and could have brought lunch or given a credit card number over the phone, they explained to the TV station.
"It was an unfortunate oversight that was addressed the next day," district superintendent David Healy said to ABC. "It's never happened here before and we will work to ensure that it will never happen again."
But the failure of so many school officials to act when John Robert needed them prompted Silvia Caravella to tell Fox News, "That little common-sense chip -- where was it?"