Monday, December 28, 2015

Idaho School Fires Cafeteria Worker for Giving Free Lunch to Hungry Student

by Nomad

A story from Pocatello Idaho about a middle school cafeteria worker and her act of compassion which led to her termination.

Thanks to a school district, the children in Irving Middle School in Pocatello, Idaho learned a valuable lesson about empathy and compassion.
The message was loud and clear: 
Don't do it or you will be punished.

When school cafeteria worker ,Dalene Bowden, gave a meal to a 12-year-old student who told her she didn't have money, she never expected to lose her job. After her supervisor saw what happened, Bowden was reported. He then told her that she was to be put on permanent leave.  

Soon after that, a letter arrived from the school district  which explained that Bowden had been terminated for "theft involving school district or another's property and inaccurate transactions when ordering, receiving and serving food."
No other transgressions were registered or warnings of prior misconduct were noted in the letter. If there had been a history of employee related problems, there should have been some kind of list provided.
Additionally, there was apparently no arbitration process in cases of termination. All decisions by the school district seemed to both final and unchallengable.

The single-page letter reads:
Consequently, because of the nature of your actions, the District will not be maintaining your employment in any capacity.
Bowden offered to compensate the school district for the $1.70 meal, but that offer was rejected. In reaction to the school district's decision, Bowden has been forced to contact a lawyer.

According to the school's website, Irving Middle School claims it is all about "kindness and community." 

Back in 2013, Principal Tonya Wilkes and the school's former principal Susan Pettit (who, in the capacity of human resource director, signed the termination letter) were all about "teaching students the importance of virtues and a sense of belonging and looking out for one another.

This decision teaches students something very different: that compassion - no matter how small the cost to the community- is, according to the authorities, a form of theft. You risk losing everything if you dare to follow your conscience.
Is that really what we want students at that age (or any age) to learn? 

If students and parents are expected to take those words about "the importance of virtue and looking out from each other" seriously, it would seem like Wilkes (and other school district administrators) will have to explain the decision to fire an employee for a simple act of kindness to a needy member of  the community.

There's yet another factor to consider. According to the same 2013 news report:
Irving has the highest percentage of students in the district who qualify for free and reduced hot lunches — an indicator of the social-economic status of many families the school serves. Irving Middle School is also the district’s main Developmental Learning Program, or DLP, for students with physical and mental challenges.