Raising eyebrows is one Idaho school’s decision to fire a lunch lady, after the cafeteria worker, Dalene Bowden gave away a hot meal to a hungry child who didn’t have any money. A ‘theft’ that cost the school less than $2.
Despite offering to pay the district the $1.70 lunch she’d given away, officials at Pocatello’s Irving Middle School insisted their decision to let go of Bowden would stay firm.
Told the former lunch lady via Idaho State Journal of her dismissal just days before Christmas: ‘I know I screwed up, but what are you supposed to do when the kid tells you that they’re hungry and they don’t have any money?’
Responding to the fracas, the human resource director of the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District sent Bowden a letter informing her she was being dismissed for theft of school property and inaccurate lunchroom transactions.
Bowden said she was serving up lunch last week when a 12-year-old girl told her she was hungry, but couldn’t pay for a meal. The cafeteria worker loaded up the student’s tray with food, and told the girl they would figure out payment later.
Her supervisor saw what happened, and Bowden offered to pay for the meal herself. But her bosses rejected the offer and placed her on immediate leave instead, she said.
Days later, an official letter of termination came from the district.
The woman’s dismissal has since galvanized a movement to have her re installed, with one mother whose children attending the school, Raushelle Guzman having organized an online petition asking the school to rehire the lunch lady. By Wednesday mid afternoon, the petition had just under 50,000 signatures.
Told the mother: ‘I think (Bowden) did the right thing and I think we need to make sure that every child that wants lunch can have lunch,’
‘The policy is wrong! We need to change the policy or change the people making them!’
‘They could allow the child to work in the kitchen or cleaning/ wiping down tables in the cafeteria or possibly staying after games to pick up trash in order to earn their lunch if their balance is exceeded. We do not need to humiliate or demean any child or worker in the situation.’
Bowden, a three-year cafeteria veteran with no disciplinary problems in her file, started an online fundraiser (which as of press has raised just on $5K) and said she is now considering legal action.
Asked if she regrets handing out the free meal, the former lunch lady told: ‘My heart hurts. I truly loved my job, and I can’t say that I wouldn’t do it again.’
What do you think? Did the cafeteria worker break rules and therefore she deserved to get fired or could this situation have been handled in a more productive manner and if so, why wasn’t it?