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School principal faces backlash after taking pizzas away from students' holiday party

One Iowa principal is being compared to the Grinch after abruptly canceling the special treat.
/ Source: TODAY

The holiday season is a festive time of year, not just for family gatherings, but also for students and teachers to celebrate special milestones halfway through the year.

That is, of course, unless someone comes in and abruptly puts a halt to any holiday cheer.

On Thursday, students at Brody Middle School in Des Moines, Iowa, were totally disappointed and one teacher was reportedly left in tears after their school principal abruptly canceled a pizza party meant as an end-of-the-semester reward for good classroom behavior.

But he didn't just cancel the party — the principal actually came into the classroom and confiscated the piping hot pizzas that had already been ordered.

The incident has since received a ton of backlash, prompting the school's principal, Thomas Hoffman, to issue an apology.

Neil Erickson, a parent of a student at Brody Middle School, took to Facebook on Thursday to explain what happened.

"My son attends Brody Middle School here in Des Moines. His class earned a pizza party that I believe the teacher paid for," Erickson posted. "He has been excited for this for days…telling me about it and how they earned it…Well today was the day. The pizzas were delivered to the class… the teacher paid and signed the receipt. Principal walks into the classroom and says, 'I never approve pizza parties,' or something to that effect."

Erickson said that the principal then took the pizzas away from the students and left them in a separate space for the teacher who had ordered them to collect after school.

Erickson continued, "Now my son and his classmates lost the party they worked hard to earn and the pizza I'm sure is wasted now…and the teacher was left in tears. I just can’t believe it!"

The post has since garnered over 3,000 comments and has been shared over 3,500 times. Many people are outraged that a principal would do such a thing to kids ahead of the holidays, with some likening him to the Grinch.

"What a miserable rotten principal. What a horrible lesson he taught those students," said one commenter. "Work hard and be punished for it."

The post quickly garnered so much attention that Hoffman reached out to parents with an apology and an explanation later that day, according to the Des Moines Register. He removed the pizzas in an attempt to be fair to all students, he said, but admitted that his actions missed the mark.

“As principal, one of my top priorities is fairness and equal opportunity for our students at Brody Middle School. That applies to everything from the chances they have to learn in the classroom to rewards and recognitions by our teachers and staff. We have discussed this from time to time as a school,” he told parents. "However, I do want to apologize for being overly strict in applying that standard today when it came to one of our classrooms. Most of all, I want to apologize for disappointing any of our students and punishing them."

Hoffman later explained to the Register that when pizza parties happen at the school, they're usually held in the school's library so kids with special dietary restrictions can still enjoy food from the cafeteria. The teacher who ordered the pizzas reportedly had not discussed the timing of the pizza party for their class, so the library wasn't available on Dec. 19.

Hoffman was not immediately available for comment on Monday but he did attempt to make amends before the school started its holiday break this week. On Friday, he held a pizza party for the students who earned the special lunch as a reward for good behavior and academic work since the fall. According to the Register, the school also received about 15-20 additional pizzas from local businesses.

“I just regret that it became an ugly, big, huge thing,” Hoffman told the Register, adding that he takes "full responsibility for disappointing both the teacher and the students."

He added, "I’m grateful for the parent involvement and concern, and am hoping we can leverage this for more good things for our students.”