BAYONNE AND BEYOND -- After learning the circumstances surrounding the five-year-old non-verbal, autistic child from Matawan who was allegedly denied school lunch, Bayonne-based Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell immediately called for a formal investigation to be conducted by the New Jersey Department of Education. The boy was in just his fourth day at Cliffwood Elementary School in Matawan when, according to a report by Channel 7 Eyewitness News, he was left without lunch and made to sit and watch other children eat due to a miscommunication between the school and his parents over the $2 per day lunch fee.
O’Donnell released the following statement in calling for the investigation:
"Regardless of the reason, it is outrageous that a 5-year-old child was forced to go hungry for an entire day. While it is inexcusable for any child in our public schools to sit through a lunch period watching others eat while having been denied a meal, this particular case is even more appalling. This student was a nonverbal autistic child who couldn’t possibly even begin to defend himself. The school staff had an obligation to look out for this child.
While school lunch programs and their administrators are to be commended for the strides they have made in ensuring that our public school children receive healthy meals, no child should ever slip through the cracks and go hungry for an entire school day.
Matawan’s School Superintendent said this has never happened before and it will never happen again, but I believe it is incumbent upon the State Department of Education to conduct a complete and thorough investigation. The fact that a 5-year-old sat hungry all day because a mistake was made and a $2 fee was unpaid and the people in charge didn’t bother to call his parents is inexcusable. It is our responsibility to make sure it never happens again. It is my hope that this investigation will result in comprehensive, state-wide guidelines being implemented to protect those who can’t help themselves.”