By Joseph Harkins
CAMDEN, N.J. -- A New Jersey school board has agreed to pick up the tab for an expensive lunch; allegedly forced to be eaten by former fifth-grade students off the cafeteria floor.
Today, the seven Hispanic students have $500,000 in their pockets after the Camden school board agreed to settle a lawsuit rather than admit to claims that the kids were made to eat lunch on the floor as punishment for spilling a jug of water.
Without admitting any guilt, the school board will let each student split $280,000, about $31,428 each. Under the settlement, their attorney, Alan H. Schorr, of Cherry Hill, will get the hefty chunk of $220,000 for representing the students and another $50,000 on behalf of an earlier $75,000 settlement with their teacher, Jose Rivera, who was fired after reporting the incident to the board of education, but now holds a teaching job in another district.
The administrator who imposed the punishment, Theresa Brown, was reassigned to Camden High School, where she is now a vice principal.
Members of the Hispanic community including several then-members of the school board and city council had called for Brown’s firing.
According to the suit, the punishment occurred after a student in Rivera’s bilingual class — overseen that day by a substitute teacher — tried to change a jug of water in a water cooler and caused a spill.
Brown, who is black, then allegedly punished the class of about 15 Puerto Rican students by making them eat on the dusty, dirty cafeteria floor -- using liners instead of trays -- while other classes were seated at tables. Some students in Rivera’s class were absent on the day of the spill, but also were subject to the continuing punishment, the lawsuit says.
"These kids have a tough enough life without being bullied by their own administration," Schorr said to FoxNews.com. "Hopefully this settlement will give them a head start toward college."
The state Department of Education later reportedly found Brown's peculiar form of penance for the water spill a “recurring practice” at the school due to the “failures of the school administration and lunch room supervision.”
However, in this case, it seems the cover-up was almost as bad as the punishment.
After the first day, Brown told the 15 students that she would extend their stay on the cafeteria floor if they alerted anyone to what she had made them do. But a parent found out, and came to the school two weeks after the stretch of 10 days on-the-floor concluded.
At that point, The Courier Post reports that the school's principal, Alex DeFlavis, who is white and since retired, refused to speak with the Hispanic parent. Instead, Schorr said a school secretary handed the parent off to Rivera.