Security footage now has been made public showing a Black student being ordered by a white lunch monitor at a school in Lorain, Ohio, to eat food the girl had thrown in the trash.
After asking for months to see the video of the incident at Palm Elementary School, the parents of the child, who’s also suing the school, says the footage confirms everything their daughter told them.
The Lorain City School District released surveillance footage of the act on Wednesday, Jan. 19. The school district blurred the students’ faces out before its release to the public.
The incident, captured in a 34-minute full-length video released by the district, happened in November 2021.
In the upper left corner of the abridged video, the camera shows a child throwing her finished lunch into the garbage can, telling the principal she did not like the waffles.
A white adult woman wearing a T-shirt and blue jeans pulled the food out of the trash can, wiped off the package of food and told the female student to eat what had been thrown into the garbage.
The video shows the 9-year-old fourth grader refusing to do what the adult aid asks, but eventually acquiesce. At one point the aid sits next to the student to ensure she eats the food.
Jared Klebanow, one of the attorneys representing the interest of the girl and her family, stated that the video validates the student’s recollection of the events. He also said the family has asked for months to see the video, but did not see it until the public release.
Upon seeing the video, the child reportedly was retraumatized, reliving the feelings of embarrassment and humiliation that she felt at that moment at the school last fall.
The attorney spoke of actions in the video. “What we see is a student finish with her lunch … again, a student finish with her lunch and she goes to throw the lunch away like hundreds and thousands of students across the country do every day. We see in the video, this monitor, the named defendant, go ahead and grab the waffle out of the garbage,” he continued. “And she appears to instruct the student to go get a paper towel, go back to her seat.”
He added, “She places the waffle at the table and then for a matter of minutes is talking with her, instructing her, as we know from the victim’s standpoint, that she needs to eat this waffle that was in the garbage and the monitor goes as far as to sit right next to her, as is alleged in the complaint, and intimidate her into doing so,” he said.
The lawyer alleges the video confirms the testimony of the student, and said, “unfortunately, in our world and society today, had that video not been there, it might have just been a child’s word against a teacher, an administrator, which is a tough spot to be in.”
Cleveland 19 reported that the district discovered during its investigation that the girl was pressured to eat the food from the trash receptacle; once home, she told her parents. One of her parents came to the school and filed an official complaint. The principal received the complaint, but reportedly did not follow the appropriate protocol.
Since the district’s investigation, both the principal and the cafeteria monitor have been fired. Still, the girl’s family believes that the termination of the two adults is a quick fix and that they should have their day in court for the pain and suffering they’ve expressed that they’re experiencing.
LaTosha Williams, the girl’s mom, said that her child had become sick after eating the food and that since she missed time from work while staying home to nurse her daughter, she lost her job.
“It literally flipped my whole family upside down,” she said in December. “She has changed at home. She doesn’t act the same. She doesn’t even want to go to school.”
The family filed a lawsuit that seeks admission of wrongdoing, a collaborative effort to prevent such incidents in the future and an undetermined amount of money.
District superintendent Jeff Graham addressed the issue after the investigation, saying, “Any infringement upon the dignity and respect of our students will not be tolerated. Our students deserve staff members who are able to make good decisions in all situations. And any staff member who is unable to deliver on that promise is unwelcome in our schools.”
The school district has offered no further statement about the incident or the lawsuit.
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