It almost sounds like the set-up to a Dickensian Christmas story: a poor 12-year old girl tells the lunch lady at her Idaho school that she is hungry and out of money, so the compassionate lady offers her a free hot meal. But things take a dark turn as a cold-hearted school board decides to fire the lunch lady for “theft/stealing school district…property, and inaccurate, transactions when ordering, receiving, and serving food.” That’s exactly what happened to Dalene Bowden, who worked at Irving Middle School in Pocatello, Idaho.
While Bowden said she had offered to pay the $1.70 lunch charge for the girl, her supervisor refused the offer, and a few days after the “incident”, she received a letter telling her she had lost her job. “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,” she told the Idaho State Journal. The newspaper also quotes Shelley Allen, a spokeswoman for the District 25 schools board, who explained that those children who run out of credit on their lunch bill are provided with a snack, but kitchen workers are expected to “take their tray away and dump it.” But there might still be a happy ending to this story: an online petition in support of Dalene has received nearly 80,000 signatures, and with the help of a GoFundMe page she set up she has been able to hire an attorney to help her challenge the dismissal. “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,” Bowden wrote on the page. Local school district officials have yet to comment on the case.
Read the full story at Buzzfeed.