There is sufficient blame to go around after cafeteria workers at a middle school in Attleboro, Massachusetts reportedly ordered over two dozen students to throw their food away because they had a negative balance on their pre-paid lunch cards.

One Coehlo Middle School student was short five cents, but was still ordered to trash the food.

The school's principal, Andrew Boles, pointed fingers at Whitson's Culinary Group, the food vendor that provides Coelho and some 80 other schools in New England with cafeteria services.

"I apologize to all parents on behalf of Whitson's," Boles said. "This sort of thing should never happen at any school especially at Attleboro Public Schools."

Whitson's, for its part, is placing blame on rogue contract workers.

"Employees had taken it upon themselves to institute this change," spokeswoman Holly Von Seggern is quoted as saying. "It was not condoned or approved. We had absolutely no idea."

But Boles isn't buying it. He maintains that the decision to have 25 students leave the cafeteria with empty stomach came directly from Whitson's.

Parents, meanwhile, claim they weren't even notified of their negative balance or given the requisite three-day grace period.

Furthermore, federal laws require that children be given at least "a cheese sandwich, a fruit and vegetable, and milk" if they can't pay, after which their parents are to be notified of the issue.

"I told [the principal] this is bullying, neglect, child abuse," said parent Jo-An Blanchard, whose son came home hungry. "You can't do that to children."

Whitson's employees at the school have since been instructed not to deny any child their lunch, and the on-site director for Whitson's has been placed on administrative leave while the investigation continues.

[screengrab via NBC10]