Seven students forced to eat lunch on their New Jersey school's gymnasium floor for two weeks as punishment won a $500,000 legal settlement, their attorney said Tuesday.
The 2008 incident involved fifth-grade students at Charles Sumner Elementary School in Camden, N.J., who were disciplined after one child spilled water as he tried to lift a jug onto a cooler, according to lawyer Alan Schorr.
The students filed a federal lawsuit against the Camden Board of Education, which agreed to the settlement, Schorr said.
He said the incident took place against a backdrop of discord between the black and Hispanic populations in the impoverished southern New Jersey city. The children were Hispanic.
Schorr said the vice principal, who was African-American, punished all 15 students in a bilingual class by making them eat off paper liners normally used on lunch trays. (While there were 15 students in the class, only seven sued.)
"The African-American kids were eating at tables, with trays, taunting these Hispanic kids who were forced to eat on the ground," Schorr said.
The vice principal has since transferred.
CourierPostOnline.com reported that the board of education had approved the settlement but not admitted any guilt.
"Under the settlement, the students will split $280,000, which works out to $31,428 each. Their attorney, Alan H. Schorr of Cherry Hill, will get $220,000."
The children's teacher was fired after encouraging them to tell their parents about the punishment. The teacher won a $75,000 settlement earlier.
Neither school officials nor their lawyers could be reached for comment.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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