What kind of school fires a lunch lady for giving a kid their lunch? Apparently, middle school Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25 in Idaho does. Dalene Bowden has worked at the school for the past three years without any incident, until now.
So what did she do? She gave a free lunch to a hungry student who didn’t have the money to pay for a hot lunch. Bowden “broke the rules” and gave her a $1.70 lunch. If that’s what “breaking the rules” is, then everyone should. What kind of school lets a child go hungry? It’s not like $1.70 is going to pay anyone’s salaries.
Bowden, who is a breast cancer survivor, said the students adored her, stating in the Idaho State Journal:
“Last year during an assembly, I got a standing ovation from the students when my name and photo came up on the screen. I love them, and they all love me, too. That’s probably why the girl came to me when she didn’t have any money.
I love my job, I really do. This just breaks my heart, and I was in the wrong, but what do you do when the kid tells you that they’re hungry, and they don’t have any money? I handed her the tray.”
As if this is straight out of a movie, her termination letter was put on Facebook by a group trying to save her job, and it explains the “reason” she was let go:
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“The reason for your termination is due to your theft-stealing school district or another’s property and inaccurate transactions when ordering, receiving, or serving food.”
While the Superintendent explained that there is a policy for students who don’t have lunch money, it still doesn’t justify this course of action. Apparently, parents are notified when the lunch bill deficit reaches $11–at this point, students receive a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Bowden, however, said she’s seen lunch workers take hot lunch trays away from students who’ve reached the deficit, and throw the food away right in front of them.
I hardly need to explain how wrong this is. No student should be shamed for not having money–if anything, a school should be shamed for mishandling such sensitive situations. And really, this is something that should stay between the parents and administration, not a public display for the children. Throwing food away is also a waste of money, so it appears the entire “policy” should be rethought.
Update: In response to this story going viral, the school district learned its lesson and offered Ms. Bowden her job back. Good job, internet.