Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. What I didn’t understand in the story is that it says if as student exceeds the $11 overdraft limit that they are given a milk and PB & J or something similar. I assume the lunch lady tried to give the kid a normal meal and not the substitute meal. Why not just give her the substitute meal then?
POCATELLO — Last week, Dalene Bowden, a food service worker at Irving Middle School, was placed on leave after she gave a free hot lunch to a 12-year-old girl who said she was hungry and didn’t have any money.
Bowden has now received a registered letter from the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District informing her that she has been fired.
The brief, one-page letter was signed by District 25 Director of Human Resources Susan Petit. It states that Bowden was dismissed due to her theft of school district property and inaccurate transactions when ordering, receiving and serving food.
Bowden’s story garnered hundreds of comments on social media and an online petition was launched Saturday demanding that Bowden be reinstated as a lunch lady at Irving.
Bowden said she offered to pay for the $1.70 lunch, but her supervisor rejected her offer. And she was placed on termination leave last Tuesday pending a meeting with the District 25 School Board.
District School Board member Jacob Gertsch declined to comment on Bowden’s termination Monday, calling it a personnel matter. And administrators could not be reached.
“This is just breaking my heart,” Bowden said. “And they couldn’t even bother to put my check in with the letter.”
The letter states that Bowden will be paid within 10 days.
Raushelle Guzman, of Pocatello, started an online petition hoping to convince the district to rehire Bowden. As of Monday, more than 1,800 people had signed the online petition.
Guzman said she doesn’t know Bowden, but she does have two children who attend District 25 schools.
“I think (Bowden) did the right thing and I think we need to make sure that every child that wants lunch can have lunch,” Guzman said. “I think the district’s policy needs to be changed. We do not need to humiliate or demean any child or worker in that situation. Students must be provided with an adequate meal.”
Bowden has worked for District 25 for the past three years and said she’s never been written up or reprimanded for her job performance. But she said she did receive a verbal warning once for giving a student a free cookie.
She plans to seek legal counsel regarding the termination letter accusing her of theft.
“I broke the rules, but I offered to pay for the meal and I don’t think I deserved to lose my job over it,” Bowden said.
Last week, Interim Superintendent Douglas Howell said District 25 works to make sure children who live in economically disadvantaged homes receive free or reduced hot lunches.
District 25 also participates in the Idaho Foodbank’s weekend backpack program that sends food items home with students in need each Friday.
Shelley Allen, spokeswoman for the district, said last week that students who exceed an $11 charge limit are provided something to eat, such as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and milk.
Parents are notified once the lunch bill reaches the $11 cutoff.
Bowden said if a child is over the credit limit, workers are supposed to take their tray away and dump it.
“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,” Bowden said.
Disappointed in the school district, you don’t let a child go hungry. And for them to fire her for theft?
I don’t know if the kid wasn’t offered the alternative meal or the lunch lady chose to follow through with that. One of those things where there is probably more to the story on both sides. Maybe the lunch lady has a history of being off on her records.
Most of the meals in schools seem to be given out for “free,” what’s one more?
Sounds fishy………..I don’t buy it. First infraction and for giving ONE lunch away? Sounds like there is more behind the scenes……….just sayin’
Very fishy, agreed.
The lunch lady has been offered her job back. The school district caught a lot of flak for their decision to fire her
A gofundme.com account raised more than $12,300 to help Bowden fund action against the district. An anonymous donor contributed $500 and asked Bowden to set up a fund for students in District 25 who can’t afford to pay for their lunch.
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/
Seriously? As if those free lunch funds don’t flow like water for anyone who asks–the verification process is almost non-existent. We’ve seen lawyer’s kids get free lunches just because they could. Anyone wanna bet we haven’t seen the end of this?
Can you imagine telling people that- “yup, lost my job today, gave away a lunch to a kid for free.” 🙁 Gasp. What a nightmare for her.
Sometimes there just isn’t more to the story. maybe this is one of those times.. Losing your job over $2 is kinda dumb.. especially since she offered to pay for it.. and it wasn’t something to benefit her.
I would gladly have given a free lunch to any child that was hungry.
There was a little more to it from the Bee story. The girl still could have got a meal because she was under $11.
I think my thoughts on this depend on whether the family can’t afford it or are they just too lazy to replenish the account. if they can’t afford it, then she would be on the food program. If the family is just too lazy or if the girl didn’t tell her parents, then I have less sympathy for her and the family.
Both of my school aged lunch eaters have accounts and I set up auto-replenish when their accounts go under $20. I am pretty sure most districts do it now. There is no excuse for a parent to not take care of their kids lunch needs……..even if they’re on the free program, they can still make sure they fill out the paperwork.
I believe in one story I saw, it said the girl was too embarrassed to ask about her account balance. In any case, not something the server should have lost her job over… IMHO
Poor thing….if that’s true. The kids don’t usually have to ask, the lunch people are supposed to give notices-more than one notice in fact. 🙁
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