JOSHUA, Texas - Joshua ISD in Johnson County says four elementary school teachers resigned after admitting to getting free lunches from students who got the meals as part of the federal government's COVID-19 free lunch program.
The district did not say how many lunches the four teachers received but says the practice occurred consistently throughout this school year at North Joshua Elementary School. The district says the teachers could have faced possible termination.
Multiple parents are upset after hearing about the teachers resigning. In their eyes, they think it was a case of not knowing the rules.
The school district's statement said that while parents see the action as innocent, they call it fraudulent behavior.
Joshua ISD released a lengthy statement Friday that addressed conjecture about what led up to the resignation of four teachers at North Joshua Elementary School this week.
One of those teachers is the wife of Mark Davenport.
"My wife's first time hearing about it was 2 o’clock yesterday when she was told to get her personal belongings and head to the administrator’s office. First time hearing about it," he said.
Joshua ISD told parents the district became aware of an incident two days ago involving the free lunch program that’s tied to federal dollars.
The district says some staff members made students who had a packed lunch from home use their lunch cards to go through the line and give their school food to the staff member.
Multiple parents talked with us when we met Davenport. The parents say their students and others were giving the lunches as an act of kindness.
Davenport says his wife and others didn’t know they were doing anything wrong.
"It wasn’t a big deal. A $4 lunch is not worth losing your job over," he said. "My wife would never have taken a dollar from this school if she knew it was wrong. None of these teachers would."
Part of the district's statement says, "While many in the community have stated the students were performing ‘an act of kindness’ and that this was one mistake which should not merit a separation of employment, such is not the case. The act of receiving federal free lunches which one is not entitled to is fraudulent behavior, abuse of official capacity and theft of federal funds, carrying with it criminal sanctions under Texas Penal Code 39.02."
"Our kids got home from school and were completely devastated and as are these families," said parent Alan Strickland. "For what reason? Why don’t know the rule."
Strickland has a second and third-grade student at the school.
The district says they also saw the actions on school surveillance video from the cafeteria. When confronted about the violations, the district says all the staff members admitted what they did.
"Give them another chance to write the wrong and understand instead of not having any due process at all," Strickland said.
The district calls the matter "serious" and says it could possibly threaten district funding.
Joshua ISD declined to do any interviews and did not address what, if any, other possible liabilities or state or federal repercussions it could have faced if it did only let the teachers off with a warning.
The district says no student is to blame for this issue, only staff members.
There could be further investigations from other state and federal agencies, but it’s unclear if that will happen.