Autistic kindergartner denied school lunch

September 13, 2012 4:21:04 AM PDT
Parents in New Jersey are outraged after learning their autistic son was forced to go hungry all day at school.

That's because the school denied the boy his lunch over a billing issue.

So the 5-year-old just sat there at Cliffwood Elementary in Matawan and watched others eat.

It was John Robert Caravella's fourth day of kindergarten in a new school.

But no one, not the principal, not the teachers, and not the aides, helped this 5-year-old autistic child get his lunch Tuesday. So he sat in the cafeteria and ate nothing.

"Really, for $2, you couldn't feed the kid?" said Silvia Caravella, John Robert's mother.

John Robert left for school at 8:45 a.m. and didn't get home until 4 p.m. And all that time, all he ate was a bag of mini muffins his parents packed him for a snack.

"I was at a client dinner and I had a steak," Silvia Caravella said. "And I come home and I hear that my son didn't eat. That's a terrible."

John Robert's parents acknowledge they didn't fully understand Cliffwood Elementary School's payment system and that their lunch account was in the red.

But they wonder why someone didn't try to immediately solve the problem, instead of denying their son a two dollar lunch.

"He's in lunch, he's supposed to eat, why don't you make a phone call?" dad John Caravella said. "Can I have a credit card? Can you drop off some lunch? I would have done anything to get him some food."

Making the situation even more upsetting, John Robert is non-verbal and cannot say that he is hungry or needs food.

Wednesday night, the Matawan superintendent told Eyewitness News, "It was an unfortunate oversight that was addressed the next day. It's never happened here before and we will work to ensure that it will never happen again."

"I put him on the bus with tears in my eyes, saying hey, is it going to happen today? I put money in his folder," John Caravella said.

John Robert did eat lunch Wednesday after his parents deposited more money in the lunch account. But his parents worry that if teachers let him go hungry, could there be more going wrong there?

"Is he getting treated the right way? He's our whole life, he's our whole world," John Caravella said.

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