RIPLEY, Tenn. (WREG) — Tennessee school officials are investigating an incident at a Pizza Hut restaurant involving a class of special needs students.
Keith Duncan, whose stepdaughter was part of the group, is upset about how the Halls High School students were reportedly treated by an employee at the restaurant in Ripley, a city of about 8,500 in West Tennessee.
"I do know they could have handled that a lot better," he said. "Just been more professional about it. Just have a little leniency for our kids."
Duncan's stepdaughter was one of about 20 students attending a party at the restaurant Friday afternoon.
"She's a very likable girl, everybody in school likes her, very popular," Duncan said. "She won homecoming queen recently at the school."
Duncan, like other parents, learned through social media the group's teacher was told by a Pizza Hut employee that the group needed to hurry up so "regular people" could come in.
"They kept rushing us because their 'regular' group of people was coming in, whatever that was supposed to mean," the group's teacher said.
Duncan agreed with the group's teacher that the use of "regular" was offensive.
Though he wasn't there, Duncan said he believes the teacher's account of what happened. Duncan said he went to Pizza Hut after learning of the alleged incident, but he got no response from management.
So WREG tried to get a comment from the store.
"No one is authorized to speak on behalf of the company here, but I can give you this hotline number if you want it, and no one's allowed to record," an employee said.
WREG left a message on the media hotline and reached out through email but had not heard back from Pizza Hut as of Monday evening.
Shawn Kimble, superintendent of Lauderdale County Schools, said he would be meeting with teachers and administrators Monday afternoon to get all the facts about what happened, and he would be contacting Pizza Hut's corporate offices
"We want our students treated fairly, regardless of whether they are at school or in the community," Kimble said.
Kimble said the offensive comment was made out of earshot of students.
"I don't want the kids to think they did anything wrong because they were just in there to have a good time, eat pizza, cut up and have a great Friday," he said.