Outrage of the Morning: Lunch Lady Accused of “Grooming” A Kid

Hi Readers — Even before my morning coffee, I have to throw ezintkyrse
this one
up (as it were): A “dinner lady” — which we here in the States call a “lunch lady” — gave a boy an extra “biscuit” (i.e., cookie). And for THAT she was accused of possibly “grooming” him for later lascivious activities. According to The Belfast Telegraph:

Her ordeal began in January 2008 when she was working as unit catering supervisor at St Mary’s PS in Brookeborough, Co Fermanagh. A pupil at the school, who was also a relative, asked for a biscuit and Mrs Lavery told a catering assistant who was serving biscuits at the time to give one to the child.

The next day, however, the acting principal came to the kitchen and informed Mrs Lavery that under the Child Protection Act, her actions could be seen as “grooming a child”.

She ended up having to attend three meetings and the principal wanted her to attend a fourth. She stopped working at the school and says she endured two years of living under a cloud, even though the school never formally accused her of near-pedophilia, or whatever the charge would be.

So, bakers of the world beware! Those little cookies you give to kids COULD be construed as sickening come-ons from now on, thanks to “worst first” thinking: Immediately jumping to the conclusion that something that SEEMS innocent and normal is probably actually perverted and disgusting. A lovely way to look at the world, and cookies. — Lenore


Boy with a gift from an obvious pervert. (Maybe the dog?You just never know.)


55 Responses to Outrage of the Morning: Lunch Lady Accused of “Grooming” A Kid

  1. Mike October 11, 2010 at 9:37 pm #

    Someone should slap that principal. Seriously.

  2. Joette October 11, 2010 at 9:39 pm #

    And substitute all the principal’s cookies with the nastiest fiber bars imaginable.

  3. Shelly October 11, 2010 at 9:57 pm #

    Oh No! The ladies at the Publix bakery have been grooming my kids for YEARS and I didn’t even know it! Come to think of it, the waiter at our restaurant yesterday gave my daughter extra crayons. That scoundrel.

  4. helenquine October 11, 2010 at 10:39 pm #

    At least it seems like the people who made this mistake and allowed it to continue for so long have been brought to task.

    I would love to know what the real motive behind it was. I often wonder with things like this because so often the children’s safety blurb seems like the excuse they’ve come up with that they think people will be least able/likely to argue with.

  5. pebblekeeper October 11, 2010 at 10:55 pm #

    I gave extra cookies in line at the camp canteen. It helped me get disorderly kids to pay attention – and make a bond – and have a bit of respect – friendship – so they’d listen during KP. So yes, I was grooming them – to want to do more KP, for an after dish wiping cookie too. 🙂

  6. Peter October 11, 2010 at 11:19 pm #

    In the UK, then only legal interactions between adults and children are demonstrated in the classroom scenes in the Pink Floyd movie “The Wall”. How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?

  7. Donna October 11, 2010 at 11:29 pm #

    Wow. Just, wow. Apparently the Kroger bakery is grooming my kid too. They give her cookies every time she goes in there. I guess my receptionist is grooming her as well since I brought my kid to work today and the receptionist has been voluntarily playing for her for hours (I keep trying to take her back to my office and they both vehemently protest). I can’t imagine living with such a mentality that I would worry about the intentions of my receptionist just because she is enjoying talking to my kid.

  8. bellydancerakn October 11, 2010 at 11:39 pm #

    Well they’ve found us out. I mean the only reason I’ve opened a bakery is so I can “groom” little kids. Not to pay the mortgage or anything, just so I can get to the occasional adorable 3 yr old in fairy wings and give them a bit of giant cookie. Yep Yep I’m a giant nasty pervert and all that [/sarcasm]
    God really? I think that those who come up with these twisted ideas are those who we really need to take a closer look at.

  9. Larry Harrison October 11, 2010 at 11:50 pm #

    Lenore, I LOVE, I just LOVE, that picture on the bottom–and especially the caption underneath it. It’s why we all just love your wit so much.

    Good grief, some people would accuse you of child abuse for not giving a child a cookie. If, for instance, you don’t want your child under the age of 4 to have chocolate, and at a public meeting they’re passing cookies out but you don’t let your child have one–even if you bought, say, a strawberry cake as a nice alternative–nonetheless you will get people accusing you of being mean to your child for not letting them have the chocolate the others are having.

    Meanwhile, here’s someone having to undergo “counseling” for the exact opposite.

    It just shows: you’re damned if you, damned if you don’t. Judgment no matter what. You should parent as you think is right even if there is a penalty, but if you’re penalized regardless, then oh well. Nothing to be afraid of.

    Except morons masquerading as principals.

  10. MommyMagpie October 11, 2010 at 11:50 pm #

    And it goes beyond cookies…….the pretty servers at the Chinese buffet restaurant who demonstrate to kids, with great patience and an awesome sense of humor, the proper use of chopsticks? Perverts who use lo mein, coconut shrimp and steamed dumplings to bait the trap. sheesh.

  11. Julie October 11, 2010 at 11:53 pm #

    Makes you kind of wonder if the people who dream up these accusations aren’t struggling with perversions themselves. I’d never accuse them of that cause then I’d be no better than them, but it does make you wonder.

  12. Scott October 12, 2010 at 12:26 am #

    Let me get this all straight. Beating a child is abuse, being nice to a child is grooming, and ignoring a child is neglect. And that leaves… ?

  13. EricS October 12, 2010 at 12:28 am #

    hmmm…so the act of generosity is a bad thing. So that means, at least in Fermanagh, people are encouraged or coerced into being less generous, and ultimately less kind. There by this idiot principle is admitting that his country is an unkind country. Not to mention ignorant, fearful, and no common sense. I guess “grooming” a child to be fearful and uncaring individuals is better for them and their future. Remind me to but this place in my “Do not go to” list.

  14. boyzndogz October 12, 2010 at 12:37 am #

    I sure hope some cute kid with a great costume doesn’t come to our door in 20 days.

  15. Lucy October 12, 2010 at 12:59 am #

    @MommyMagpie: yesterday the nice waitress at the chinese restaurant said our 6 yo ‘looked like she was 5’ (kids 5 and under were free…) At the time I thought she was being quite nice, but now I wonder who was being groomed? my kid? my husband? ME? It’s so confusing.

    ( / sarcasm)

  16. Laura October 12, 2010 at 1:13 am #

    Wow. The ladies and gents at the local grocery store bake an extra-big batch of cookies every afternoon at 2:30 and then give them away to kids in the know who stop in the store on the way home from school. They are “grooming” the entire school system! The horror!

  17. Ash October 12, 2010 at 1:52 am #

    This principal isn’t living in a movie, but in the lil’ red riding hood storybook. He also might have read this book in the kids spot in the library. Such prevert !

  18. Scott October 12, 2010 at 2:26 am #

    “I sure hope some cute kid with a great costume doesn’t come to our door in 20 days.”

    Oh gosh, I wish I’d thought of that! Yes… grooming.

  19. Clark Cox October 12, 2010 at 2:34 am #

    @Lucy: Oh my god, the waitress at the restaurant is planning on RAPING YOUR ENTIRE FAMILY!!1!!1


  20. Chanteuse October 12, 2010 at 3:03 am #

    OK, I’ve been lurking for a while and have read some ridiculous things, but this–this is just overflowing with the stupid! “Grooming” because she gave a kid a cookie? What next? Being brought up on charges for buying Girl Scout cookies (you know–for “luring the innocents”)?

    How long before CPS gets involved because I actually ALLOW my kids to accept those free cookies at the grocery store, accusing me of complicity in the grooming of my children?

  21. LaLa Makes A Baby October 12, 2010 at 3:10 am #

    This story annoys me so much.

    I was a super nerdy kid, and in fifth grade I had essentially NO friends. The lunch lady used to slip me an ice cream or a cookie or a treat, without fail, at least once a week. You know what? That made lunch bearable. Knowing that someone in that freakin’ cafeteria cared about me.

    How stupid are people? Why are we so paranoid?

  22. Tara October 12, 2010 at 3:12 am #

    LaLa I’m glad you felt someone was loving you in the lunch room!

    And I guess the customer service counter woman who gave my daughter (3) a dozen roses to give to me was grooming. Sometimes an adult just wants to see a kid smile for heaven’s sake!

  23. Stephanie - Home with the Kids October 12, 2010 at 3:13 am #

    I’m thinking this could be worked into a story along the lines of “If you give a mouse a cookie…”

  24. pentamom October 12, 2010 at 4:53 am #

    Scott’s comment sums it up best of all. I guess in the perfect world of these insane abuse-nannies, children should have relationships and voluntary interactions with their birth or adoptive parents, their siblings their grandparents (if properly vetted), and NO ONE ELSE (at least without a signed paper from some governmental authority “approving” the relationship and providing a clearance.)

    Oh, and of course, teachers. Teachers are sacred. You can send your kid to school for six hours under the care of no one but teachers you haven’t met, and they’re perfectly safe. But anyone else is an automatic suspect if they dare raise their eyes to the Snowflake.

    BTW, I am NOT slamming teachers. I’m just saying it’s weird that there’s this exception for this institution called “school,” and specifically the teachers, where you’re supposed to be afraid of letting your kids be anywhere without you, under the eye of anyone else, ever — but nobody is expected even to think twice if they’re within the compulsory school ages, about sending them elsewhere for hours every single day to form relationships with and have interactions with people you don’t know. It’s just a really weird (non-)logic that privileges schools — and apparently privileges teachers over other people at schools.

  25. Gareth October 12, 2010 at 6:13 am #

    Nuts. The lot of ’em. That poor woman.

    My six year-old is right now next door at the neighbor lady’s house. She invited him to play some chess or checkers. She’s probably actually giving him a cookie right now.

    He likes to help her garden. She seems like a nice lady. Why wouldn’t she want to spend some time with my son? He’s a sweet boy. Of course a visit from him beats an empty house.

    I really don’t get why the focus isn’t on teaching your kid to have common sense.

    And here he comes. Bye.

  26. BrianJ October 12, 2010 at 6:57 am #

    I think that the Brits have completely lost it. This is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard.

  27. se7en October 12, 2010 at 7:00 am #

    Oh good grief… how many kids have I groomed over the years… passing out extra cookies to my Sunday School class while they wait quietly for their parents to finish!!! What was I thinking!!! I shouldn’t post this comment the “grooming police” will be onto me!!!

  28. Kymlee October 12, 2010 at 7:01 am #

    All for giving a kid an extra biscuit? Wow…that’s crazy.

  29. JaneW October 12, 2010 at 7:12 am #

    I agree with helenquine. I think maybe the administrator wanted this woman out for some unrelated reason.

  30. Jen C October 12, 2010 at 8:59 am #

    According to that logic, I’ve groomed nearly all the kids in my neighborhood. With all the apples and popsicles and treats I’ve handed out to my kids’ friends. Wonder what having the neighbor’s kids over for dinner makes me…….

  31. Jen C October 12, 2010 at 9:04 am #

    LaLa’s comment reminded me of something from when I was in school. In 5th grade, I was an uber-nerd too, on top of being poor. I literally had NO friends. With parents’ permission, my (female) gym teacher took me and another little girl to go see Beauty & the Beast at the theater. She was in her mid-50’s, had children and grandchildren, and just felt bad for us low-income kids. She never behaved inappropriately, she was just a very nice lady who wanted to do something special for a couple of kids that didn’t get to do things like that very often.

    The bonus is I get to have a nice memory that still makes me smile when I think about it.

  32. Laura October 12, 2010 at 9:07 am #

    When I was a child we had recess on a hard black top parking lot in inner city Cleveland. There was an alley between the chain link fence and the backyard of a house that had the most beautiful roses growing in it. Often the older gentleman worked in the garden and often brought the girls a cutting of them so that we could give them to our teachers. I remember several times that he questioned us on the meaning of the golden rule. I think he did this because he was happy to see our pretty faces light up when we smelled the roses. Wish we could go back so that we didn’t place the seeds of distrust in our children so early. Grooming! BAH!

  33. Christopher Byrne October 12, 2010 at 9:11 am #

    “Some day I may want an angel food cake from you.”

    Will your child know the difference between a gun and a canoli?

    The currency of the preschool must be baked goods, and every kind-hearted lunch lady a potential gluten-toting Corleone.

    What’s really so so so tragic in this is the perspective that sees danger, abuse and manipulation coming from every corner. In reality, particularly as relates to kids, it’s far more likely that kindness is coming from every corner.

    Why can’t we see that? Why won’t we see that? One of the most pleasurable things in the world is doing something nice for a kid and watching them smile, feel special and noticed. And it can be from something as simple as an extra cookie. It doesn’t take much to make the day of a kid.

    Think of what we’re modeling–instead of something nice, fun and special; everything needs to be suspected of the worst. How heart-strangling that is, and how truly upsetting for all involved.

  34. Colleen O'Connor October 12, 2010 at 9:17 am #

    @Se7en, I thought the same thing of myself. I have given out lots of cookies and crackers to keep the Sunday School children quiet while they are waiting for their parents.

    I did not know that I had been grooming them all along.
    Shame on me!!

  35. Nicole Down Under October 12, 2010 at 11:00 am #

    Uh-oh. I think I accidentally groomed my own kid just this morning!!

  36. Steven October 12, 2010 at 11:42 am #

    I think I groomed myself tonight when I ate 4 bliss candies and groomed my 12 year old cousin and myself when we snacked on a couple pieces of brownies. According to this school, didnt know that I nearly molested him…..WOW!!!

  37. Claudia Conway October 12, 2010 at 5:17 pm #

    I was waiting for this one to come up (wasn’t sure how to send it to you!) – made me so angry. The upshot of attitudes like that is – Anyone Who Ever Does Anything Nice for a Child Might be Grooming Them.

    I know, or know of, two men who have been accused of ‘grooming’, one of whom was charged, on rather spurious grounds. It’s problematic as a criminal charge because in some cases they’re charging people with ‘you haven’t done anything yet, but you’ve acted in a way which might be construed that you are going to do something bad’ . It’s open to abuse… want to get someone in trouble? Accuse them of grooming – they don’t even need to have done something wrong, just been friendly, maybe *too* friendly, eh? to a child or young person.

  38. SuzyQ October 12, 2010 at 6:29 pm #

    Taking away yet another joy of being a child–a special treat “just because.” My daughter is the occcasional recipient of grooming by the lunch lady because I work in the same school…she sometimes is given a cookie when she buys her milk, or — worst of all — a mini bag of carrots or an apple if she walks thru the line and asks for it. DRAT that lunch lady…I thought she was simply playing nice, and it turns out she is “PLAYING NICE.”

  39. Mom of Two October 12, 2010 at 6:42 pm #

    Sent the boys next door to our elderly woman neighbor yesterday to sell some popcorn for Boy Scouts. Guess what? They even went inside!!! Guess what else? They came back home…with a COOKIE! Our youngest now wants to go back today for another one. hahaha 🙂

  40. Claudia Conway October 12, 2010 at 7:00 pm #

    In fact, why not just arrest all teachers, scout leaders, volunteers etc?

    They seem to have taken great pains to get themselves into positions where they will have contact with large numbers of children – GROOMERS!!!!

  41. Rachel October 12, 2010 at 7:19 pm #

    Better to keep your biscuits to yourself and be considered antisocial, than to offer them to others and remove all doubt…

  42. Caitlin October 12, 2010 at 9:22 pm #

    When I was young (around age 8), I used to walk to school alone through center-city Philadelphia. Gmaps now tells me the route is just under a mile and takes 18 minutes, but I remember blissful detours through Rittenhouse Square and to Rindelaub’s bakery (which always gave me cookies) and the Hallmark Store (where the clerk always “just happened” to have candy leftover from the last holiday). My family was not in great shape, and I am thankful now for the adults who helped take care of the little girl who wandered by once or twice a day.
    As an aside, I remember a time when I suspected a man was following me home. But I’d been told what to do in such a situation. I didn’t go home (where I would’ve been alone); I went to the pizza place on the corner. I told them some guy was following me, and they sat me down in a booth with a slice of pizza and a drink until he went away.

  43. Silver Fang October 12, 2010 at 9:31 pm #

    It’s getting to the point where adults can’t interact with children at all without being considered criminals.

  44. pentamom October 12, 2010 at 11:12 pm #

    I have an idea — make all school employees act like Mr. Brocklehurst in Jane Eyre. Make sure the kids do not have any unnecessary or sensual pleasures or experience anything positive other than the bare mechanical necessities of education and basic physical care. In short, they must do their “jobs,” but they most NOT BE NICE. Then no kid can possibly think well enough of any of his teachers or lunch ladies or anybody to pose a danger of “being groomed.”

  45. pentamom October 12, 2010 at 11:17 pm #

    Then again, even Jane Eyre was “groomed” by Miss Temple, who gave her extra bread and cheese in her own room in the evenings. Shudder!

  46. Letsgetreal October 13, 2010 at 1:07 am #

    This IS insane. I cannot think of another word to describe it.


  47. Jay October 13, 2010 at 1:28 am #

    “Let me get this all straight. Beating a child is abuse, being nice to a child is grooming, and ignoring a child is neglect. And that leaves… ?”

    Excellent. I may be using this over and over again, it perfectly sums up the craziness that we live in now. Thanks Scott.

  48. Claudia Conway October 13, 2010 at 5:04 am #

    Ha, hadn’t clocked that comment, Scott – brilliant!

  49. EricS October 13, 2010 at 5:22 am #

    @ Caitlin: maybe the Pizza guy was “grooming” you. (insert sarcasm). lol

  50. Myriam October 13, 2010 at 6:51 pm #

    Oh for goodness sake. One of the dinner ladies at my son’s school used to give him small toys from McDonald’s Happy Meals and say she wanted to take him home with her. All the dinner ladies loved him because he used to eat up all his dinner.
    I thought that maybe she shouldn’t do it because of the favouritism angle but it didn’t occur to me that she might be grooming him!
    I was simply proud that someone else thought he was as adorable as I do.

  51. Jenny Islander October 14, 2010 at 1:40 pm #

    Wow. I had no idea there were so many pedophiles in my town.

    The lady who restocks the claw-game machines around town, who let my little girl watch her work and then let her pick out any stuffed animal she wanted for the price of one game. The old man down at the pull tab counter who bought stuffed animals at the Elks rummage sale for both my girls when he found out that I stop by regularly while we’re downtown on other errands. The pull tab counter employees who started keeping a jar of candy to give to the girls whenever I came to buy a ticket–what kind of nefarious plans do they have that take four years (and counting) to come to fruition? The McDonald’s employees who smiled and said it was free when I pointed out the extra toy in the Happy Meal. (And this has happened with more than one employee. It’s a pedophile conspiracy under the Golden Arches!) The guy at KFC who comped the biscuits for my girls that he forgot to enter in my order. That family holding the garage sale that one time who handed me a dress for my two-year-old daughter that she wouldn’t be able to wear until she was five. And oh, the horror of the free sample cookie tray at the Safeway Bakery. How many innocent children have they snared in their coils? HOW MANY???

  52. Christy Ford October 15, 2010 at 2:06 pm #

    At one of my schools, the lunch lady gave chocolate to anyone who helped clean up. She never wanted for volunteers.

  53. baby-paramedic October 15, 2010 at 3:51 pm #

    Wow, I was groomed by the milkman (he would give us flavoured milk that was on the useby date and therefore could not be sold).

    You know, even the thought of that NOW makes me smile. The free milk that is. With so many children in the house we would never get treats like that… and every few months he would give us a 2L bottle (carefully doled out between us, half a glass each) or, bliss, one little one each. We usually got the little ones each right before Christmas.

    I still have a soft spot for that particular brand of flavoured milk, and when I’m feeling really down I will go and buy a little one to cheer me up.

  54. Anarchofeminist October 21, 2010 at 1:47 pm #

    OK now I’m scared! I do craft shows, mostly soaps, and I let a little girl have a free one $1.50 moon soap, she looked about 5 and I have nieces that age. Really was no big deal to me. Was I possibly grooming that child, whom I don’t know that lives about two towns over for future molesting. BADDDDD Frannie!

  55. Anne February 13, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

    I’m still stuck on the fact that the whole issue wasn’t dropped when it was discovered that the kid was her relative. Seriously?! God forbid a cousin do something nice for her kin!