An Idaho school lunch worker has been dismissed, allegedly after offering a free meal to a penniless student.
Dalene Bowden was employed as a cafeteria worker at Irving Middle School, from Pocatello, Idaho. When a 12-year old starving pupil revealed that she couldn’t afford to pay for a meal, the woman immediately gave her a free lunch.
However, this decision was severely criticized by Bowden’s supervisor, even if the food had only cost a mere $1.70. Despite the fact that the cafeteria worker tried to appease the situation, by saying that she would provide the missing sum herself, so that no losses would be incurred, her boss firmly rejected this offer.
Instead, on December 15, Bowden was informed that the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25 had decided that she would be sent on administrative leave, as the incident was being investigated.
Eventually, on December 21, in a laconic employee termination letter authored by Susan Petit, HR Director at District 25, it was announced that the woman would be dismissed, due to the fact that she had been found guilty of school property theft and of conducting erroneous transactions while serving meals.
Infuriated by this lack of empathy shown by officials, Raushelle Goodin-Guzman, whose two children are students at one of the school district’s institutions, started an online petition in order to come to Bowden’s aid.
As Goodin-Guzman explained, all schoolchildren should benefit from a warm lunch, and more compassion should be shown for those who can’t afford to pay for their meal, instead of humiliating them or treating them unkindly.
It appears that her viewpoint is shared by thousands of others, since the Care2 campaign has already drawn more than 42,500 signatures up until Wednesday, December 23.
People are now demanding that the cafeteria worker should be re-appointed and resume her former job responsibilities. While it’s unclear if this mission will be successful, the petition will most likely at least manage to gain its desired number of supporters (45,000) by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, Bowden has declared that she is completely devastated following the school district’s decision, especially now that she will now be among the unemployed at Christmas time.
She had been working at the academic institution for the last 3 years, and had never received any complaints, her only prior transgression, sanctioned with a verbal warning, having consisted in handing out a free cookie to a pupil.
While she admits that she didn’t follow the school’s strict set of procedures, which specify that no kids should be served if they surpass their $11 credit limit, the worker has said that she couldn’t help feeling sorry for the hungry student.
Despite the fact that the little girl had told her she had no money to cover the cost of her warm lunch, Bowden still wanted to help her.
The lunch lady also hoped until the last moment that she would benefit from understanding from her supervisors, and is now planning to consult with a lawyer so as to decide the best course of action she can follow.
Douglas Howell, who serves as interim superintendent of the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25, has refrained from making comments regarding this case, simply stating that it was just a workplace issue.
Image Source: WREG