Was This School Principal Axed for Defending Low-Income Kids?

It’s a case of he said, she said at a public elementary school in Lafayette, Colorado. That’s where fired principal Noelle Roni claims she was “bullied” out of her job at Peak to Peak Charter School after standing up against a policy requiring kids in the free and reduced lunch program to get identifying hand stamps.

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“The kids are humiliated. They’re branded. It’s disrespectful,” Roni tells CBS News. “Where’s the human compassion? And these are little children.” She adds, "If we have to, we'll file suit. When I see something that I feel harms children, I speak up."

But school lawyer Barry Arrington tells Yahoo Shine, “She wasn’t fired for bringing [hand stamping] to anyone’s attention. That’s nonsense.” Though he will not “get into the weeds with her about why she was fired,” he adds, “we will address false statements, and this is false.”

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Yahoo Shine was unable to reach Roni for comment. But she tells the Daily Camera she was let go for "standing up for children's rights and against activities that stigmatized children."

Earlier, in November, she released a public statement that says, in part, that she was offered a buyout contract in exchange for saying she resigned, which she refused, noting, “My desire is to return to Peak to Peak.”

Roni’s clamping down on the practice of hand stamping, according to a memo by Roni’s lawyer Alexander Halpern, led to the resignation of a food services manager; that, in turn, is allegedly what led to an administrator to start disciplinary action against her. It allegedly led to Roni’s abrupt firing by the school in November; as a result, a recall election of two school board members is currently underway.

The school addresses the allegations, without naming Roni, through a statement added to its website on Wednesday. “Recent statements printed in the media have misled the public and given the impression that Peak to Peak has sanctioned the practice of stamping the hands of students who qualify for the FRL [free and reduced lunch] program,” it says. “This is simply not true.”

In the past, the statement continues, the school had used “hand stamping” as a way to notify paying families that their child’s lunch accounts were running low, and acknowledges that a combination of new staffers and a new food services software program did lead to the brief and inadvertent hand stamping of FRL students in the fall.

“This was a grievous mistake, and when it came to light, the food services staff and the software company worked quickly to resolve the issue,” it reads. “The school immediately stopped the past practice of hand stamping… It is offensive to all those who work tirelessly in food services to suggest they would intentionally do anything to stigmatize or otherwise embarrass any of our students.”

A group of parents have begun a petition in an attempt to get Roni re-hired, and have launched a website, Parents for Common Sense, in her support. “Why all the fuss?” the site asks. “The reputation of our school has been harmed. Our community has been disrupted. A terrible message has been sent to our teachers and other staff. Many parents and students are upset. A member of our community has been treated badly.”

Peak to Peak parent Matthew Hill, now running for a spot on the board, tells the Denver Post that Roni’s dismissal remains shrouded in mystery. “This decision to fire her in mid-year is a very negative precedent for our teachers,” he says. “We don’t know why Ms. Roni was fired. The last objective evidence we have is that she did well on her evaluations.”

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