Carissa Lee O’Connell, Honolulu Teacher, Faces Firing Threat After Eating Homemade Lunch

on May 17 2013 2:01 PM

A Hawaii teacher was threatened with dismissal recently after voicing her desire to eat homemade lunches versus school cafeteria food. Preschool teacher Carissa Lee O’Connell said she received a warning from her employers at KCAA Preschools in Honolulu that she was no longer allowed to eat her bag lunch in front of children after bringing in organic lunches due to allergies.

Lee O’Connell, 24, said she began packing her daily meals after discovering the symptoms of her severe nasal allergies were lessened when consuming organic products. Administrators at the preschool didn’t agree with the decision, threatening to fire the teacher aide if she continued to eat her homemade lunches in front of students, KITV reported Tuesday.

“Definitely upsetting,” Lee O’Connell said. “I really enjoy being with the kids, having fun and seeming them every day. They’re making me eat my lunch away from everybody else just because my director feels uncomfortable with the situation,” she said.

According to Lee O’Connell, she was verbally warned against eating the food in front of the children in April, only to receive a written warning to stop defying the school administrator's request and threatening dismissal if her actions continued. 

KCAA President Christina Cox said the teacher was scolded for eating the meals due to the institution’s belief in having “family style” lunches during which both teachers and students consume the same cafeteria fare. KCAA Campus Director Wendy Nishimura said eating unauthorized meals during a paid break or when the students are napping is permitted.

Despite the school giving Lee O’Connell leeway, the teacher and her husband, 53-year-old Rick O’Connell, said they are unhappy with the compromise regarding the issue, claiming personal issues that might come up during a work day could hinder her from being able to eat during the provided 10-minute break times.

“Her tax dollars go into a program that [children] are being fed with, but she can be ostracized for eating a certain way to maintain her health,” Rick O’Connell said. “She’s got a choice to either keep her job or keep her health. That’s just a horrible choice for anybody to have to make,” he said, claiming he witnessed his wife’s allergy symptoms disappear after starting the raw food diet.

The teacher said, despite her efforts to remain on civil grounds with the Honolulu academic institution, speaking out against the threat will most likely cause her to be terminated.

“I definitely haven’t slept well, and I can’t really focus on my work all the time,” she said. “I’m always thinking about what my director might see and how she’s going to use that against me."

Last week, a Florida teacher was fired for slighty more risque reasons. Olivia Sprauer was dismissed from her English teaching position at Martin County High School in West Palm Beach after employers located scantily clad modeling photos of the educator. Sprauer was asked to resign following the scandal.