A 5-year-old New Jersey girl is reportedly having nightmares after her teacher forced her to eat a bagel out of the trash -- with her classmates watching.
Mother Kandice Taylor is furious after her daughter Ke'Nya Febry returned home from Deerfield Township Elementary last week upset and humiliated. Ke'Nya, who takes part in the school's free meal program for low-income students, didn't like the bagel that was offered to her, so she threw it away. The move prompted her teacher to retrieve the bagel from the trash and demand that the girl return to her desk and consume it as her peers sat and watched.
"No one is saying anything," Taylor told the South Jersey Times, adding that Ke'Nya is so rattled that she'll be seeing a psychologist. "The school doesn't want to comment. I leave messages at the school every day. Right now, Ke'Nya is not attending school and that concerns me. She is tormented. She has nightmares every night."
The teacher admitted to the act at the time, but didn't apologize, adding that there was only paper in the garbage and she wouldn't have taken issue with eating the bagel herself, the South Jersey Times reports. The school's attorney is investigating.
Taylor also speculates that issues of race and socioeconomic status are at play, pointing out that her daughter comes from a low-income black family while attending a predominantly white school.
"When you went in the trash can, you went beyond anything, you went just as low as a dog," Taylor told CBS Philadelphia. "Like, who eats out of a trash can?"
Taylor has filed a report with state police, though school officials say it's not a criminal matter. She has also kept her daughter out of school for the last week while the school attempts to resolve the issue. School Board President William Miller says that while officials do not condone the behavior, he cannot provide further comment until the investigation concludes.
"We are absolutely concerned that Ke'Nya is not attending school," Miller told the South Jersey Times. "But I don't have all the information and I can't speculate on the situation until everything has been brought to light."
A 2008 incident in another New Jersey town led to an extensive legal battle between Charles Sumner Elementary School students and the Camden Board of Education. For two weeks, seven students were forced to eat lunch on the floor of the gymnasium as punishment for one child spilling water while trying to lift a jug onto a cooler.
The two sides settled in August, awarding $500,000 to the students.