Emails show principal asked some parents to stay quiet about school lunch snafu

SALT LAKE CITY — Uintah Elementary School’s beloved lunch lady was back at work Thursday.

“Miss Shirley” was welcomed with flowers, candy and letters from the students, but she has yet to get an apology from the school, according to emails obtained by FOX 13 News.

We’ve also learned the principal is telling parents to keep quiet. It’s been weeks since nearly 40 Uintah Elementary school students’ lunches were either taken away or thrown away because of negative account balances.

The Salt Lake City School District is not only investigating the incident, but making policy changes and while most parents are now beginning to shy away from our cameras, one mom is speaking out and saying the principal is asking them to stop talking to the media.

“It felt a little bit like an intimidation and it worked,” said Ashely Hoopes, who has a daughter who attends Uintah Elementary School. “To be honest, some of the parents, they just felt horrible.”

In an email chain obtained by FOX 13 News, the Principal of Uintah, Chelsea Malouf, writes “Every time one of you speaks on camera, radio or for a newspaper, you tie Uintah as the perpetrator of injustice. This media publicity puts every child and staff member at Uintah at risk.”

Hoopes said the warning was sent to parents who were vocal about what happened when dozens of school kids’ lunches were taken away.

“To basically be told not only by our principal, but by our school board representatives Heather Bennett and Laurel Young, that, ‘Hey, we don’t want to hear it, that basically as parents you don’t have a voice,’” Hoopes said.

Jason Olsen, the spokesman for the Salt Lake City School District, said he’s not aware of the email but believes Uintah’s principal has her students best interest at heart.

“I haven’t seen that email,” he said. “I have talked to the principal many times. She is concerned about her students and the safety of her school.”

Meantime, Miss Shirley, Uintah’s lunch lady, who was put on leave after the lunch debacle, is now back at work.

“Gifts and cards, candy and flowers for Shirley, this darling cafeteria worker that has kind of been the face of this whole thing, the kids have missed her, the parents have missed her,” Hoopes said.

Students and even parents welcomed her back with open arms, but in another email, Malouf writes to one parent, “there will not be an apology to her directly until the investigation is finalized.”

Olsen can’t comment on personnel issues but assures parents, “We made a promise to them that this would never happen again or something like this would never happen again, so there have been changes put in place to make sure that happens.”

He goes on to say the district’s investigation is still ongoing, but, so far, they have new policies in place that include a commitment that no student will be denied a lunch in the future.

11 comments

  • James Bodamer

    Sounds like Chelsea is worried about the future of her job & covering up that fear by making it seem like she’s concerned about the students. If she were honestly concerned, she would have devised this heartless, decievious plan to take those innocent kids lunches away!! To take a child’s lunch away after the fact, shows failure within that schools staff to correct the issue prior to the kids getting their lunch. This person, at the least, needs to be demoted without the possibility of gaining that position back.

    • Maria Peterson

      Right, if indeed it is true that the principal is requesting that parents stop communicating with media, that is wrong.

      However, you have no idea of what you are talking about. The principal and the kitchen administration had nothing to do with each other until recently, when the new policy was put in place.

      That principal has also other things to do, like going to classrooms to make sure that education is taking place. If she is being interrupted by more phone calls and emails, she cannot focus on her job. It is a time consuming job –“been there, done that.” When the public are abusive of her time, education goes down the drain. So give her some slack.

      Nobody is talking about it, but what hurts many of those parents at Uintah is called: “false pride.” The fact is that they were not keeping up with their payments, for whatever reason, and they don’t like the appearance of being slackers —which many of them are. It is a rich neighborhood and the rich know how to get attention and employ a lot of their idle time doing it.

    • Uintah Parent

      Nothing too big, maybe just a bomb or a shooter in the school.

      The issue has pasted and is under investigation, but the showboating and fake smiles by Hoopes in front of the media keeps the unstable and freaks constantly bugging the school which keeps away from teaching.

      I applaud the principal and her email as she needed to put the over zealous Harvard Yale parents (yes I live in the neighborhood) in place, which is not an easy task.

  • Trish Ramirez

    Ridiculous request/demand. The entire world has already seen this debacle and is just waiting for it to be properly resolved. Keeping quiet at this point protects only the administration and those in charge of this mess – not the children. And can someone please explain to me how the woman who stole lunches from children’s hands has suddenly become some kind of hero?? I don’t care what she was TOLD to do, as a sentient, empathetic adult she should have known better. While I wholeheartedly agree she was not the ONLY person who should have been punished (heads should have rolled from the very top down to the last adult who didn’t come to the defense of those kids that day) she certainly wasn’t picked on. She got precisely what she deserved for using her position of authority to bully and humiliate children – even if she was just following orders.

  • Bonnie

    I think our principal is doing a great job. Uintah received aggressive voicemails and posts to its Facebook page from total strangers threatening violence, and it’s not too hard to imagine some crazy person making it happen. I know Chelsea, and don’t doubt for one second that she is sincerely worried about our kids’ safety. So, yes, she (and I, and several other parents) would definitely prefer that the media shine its spotlight somewhere else. I see nothing wrong with her asking parents to come speak with her directly instead of with the media. The initial hoopla got us the attention we needed to make changes; now it’s time to work with the people who actually implement them.

  • Patrick

    I’m guessing that she made the request to stop misleading and inflammatory stories like these. The quotes from her emails are what a responsible and compassionate leader should be saying. Nobody is saying that what happened to these kids was okay, but until the investigation is completed and releases, the publicity and attention is a distraction to the students, teachers, parents and administrators.

  • Cole Webley

    As a parent of two children at this school we also received this email. To know the case is to understand that this was an isolated incident by an outside district employ. Yes, the initial uproar was certainly justified. As such, the District has owned up to the problem and are making changes.

    We endorse this email as an effort to stem negativity, not accountability, and we believe it was in that spirit that it was sent. I do not personally know the principle but I applaud her efforts to safe guard the school and it’s students from media meant to incite (like the title of this news post). Her email specifically requests that parents who still have concerns are encouraged to speak with the District – who has stewardship over the District Employee at the heart of the mistake.

    To categorize the email as “intimidation” is, in my opinion, a gross misunderstanding. It is discouraging that parents like Ms. Hoopes continue to call the media rather than have a dialogue with the school and address their concerns in a more productive manner.

    It’s disappointing that Uintah now has this black eye. Even more regrettable because it did not originate from within the schools faculty (with exception to Miss Shirley’s tone deaf following of orders issued by the District Supervisor visiting the school that day). The school is certainly one of the best elementary schools in the state and until this incident was regarded as such.

    As parents we should always keep a watchful eye, and accountability is a must, but for now can we please delete Fox 13 News from our speed dial?

    • Cole Webley

      I actually misunderstood my wife. As she was telling me about the emails I thought she meant we recieved one. Apparently, they were only sent to parents speaking out to the media. Which is even more impressive that she knew who it was and made efforts to comminucate directly with those parents. I hope they listen!

  • Uintah Parent

    Ashley Hoopes and others just want the attention and don’t get it. It was their constant pursuit with the media that brought out the freaks who started with all the bomb and shooting threats to the school. The principal sent the email requesting Hoopes, Lukes and others to calm down on the media frenzy and all the unnecessary attention. Also, half of what comes out of Hoopes’ mouth is not fact, all opinion, and very embellished.

    Ashely Hoopes you do not speak for the majority of Uintah parents, please just shut up.

    • Jim Maurer

      Maybe you should ask your children to teach you about the US Constitution, specifically the first amendment. It talks about freedom of speech and of the press. You see, in the United States people are allowed to speak to the press and do not need to get approval first. I guess you’re new to this country, but it is a right everyone here has. Even you can exercise this right by doing something like posting on a TV station website.

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