"Chicken Nuggets" Teacher Breaks Down in Tears Under Questioning Before Resignation | Eastern North Carolina Now

   Publisher's note: This post, by Matt Willoughby, was originally published in the Education section of Civitas's online edition. It is a separate account of the interview with Margaret Maynor, formerly with the Hoke County Schools. Yesterday on we published Sara Burrows's account of what transpired.

    RAEFORD     The pre-K teacher involved in the "chicken nuggets" incident in Hoke County changed her version of what happened after undergoing three separate interrogations. Margaret Maynor was brought to tears in the third session. She submitted her resignation soon after.

    In a highly unusual move, the Hoke County School System released documents from the teacher's personnel file purportedly showing why the pre-K instructor resigned.

    Previous articles reported some students with homemade lunches were given trays of school food because their bag lunches didn't meet federal nutrition standards. One girl didn't touch her homemade lunch and just ate three school chicken nuggets.

   When the girl's parent complained, the teacher, Maynor, said there had been a state inspector at the school when the bag lunches were examined. State officials vehemently denied that, as did the local school officials. They shifted the focus to Maynor.

    Among the personnel documents released by the school system is a written statement by Maynor to the principal. In it Maynor indicates the "Program Child Care Specialist with the Division of Child Development [and Early Education]" visited the school January 26.The statement indicates that was the same day the children were given cafeteria meals to supplement their homemade lunches. Maynor claims it was on January 31 that she received a complaint from the parent.

    Maynor noted that on February 1 the local pre-K program director (Elizabeth Mitchell) told her to continue to supplement the bag lunches if they didn't meet USDA guidelines.

    The parent's state representative, Rep. G.L. Pridgen (R-Robeson), began asking questions of school and state officials, and national attention on the story grew to a fever pitch.

    Maynor was then put through three separate interviews by school and county officials. Transcripts of the first two sessions were not released but the third interrogation brought Maynor to tears.

    Dr. Cheryl Benson, the district's Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, accused Maynor of not telling the truth. Dr. Benson says a report (which was not released) shows the "chicken nuggets" incident happened on January 31 - not the 26th as Maynor claimed - and Maynor sent the children through the cafeteria line. Under continued questioning Maynor at first denied it, then said she didn't remember.

    A verbatim excerpt from the February 16 transcript:

    Dr. Benson - "You are not telling the truth and the report shows the child went through the line on January 31st. (Teacher still can't remember) Are you saying this four year old child got up and went through the lunch line on her own? No, (blank) did not get up and go one her own! You told (blank) to go! Do you realize this four year old child went all day long with only 3 chicken nuggets to eat since breakfast? And you still don't remember. If you don't remember what does that tell me about your knowledge in the classroom?"

    Teacher - "When we sent the child through the line (blank) didn't have what (blank) was supposed to have."

    Dr. Benson - "So you do remember!"

    Teacher - "I don't know what I was thinking when you asked. I was thinking about January 26th, the day Mrs. Ellerbe [state official] was here (tears and more tears)."

    Scrutiny continued to increase on the school officials and on February 28 Margaret Maynor submitted her resignation.

    "It is with my deepest apology and sincere regret that I write this letter of resignation to Hoke County School. As of February 28, 2012, I am resigning from my position as a Teacher with the Hoke County School System."

    State and local officials are hoping the release of these documents will put the issue to rest. But legislation is being drafted and will be proposed in the spring session of the General Assembly to give parents more say over what their children should eat.

    Here are the three documents released from Margaret Maynor's personnel file:

      Transcript of the Third Questioning of Margaret Maynor
      Maynor statement sent to principal
      Maynor's resignation letter
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