From Boise Weekly
Dalene Bowden got the news she had feared: she’s fired.
The ex-food service worker at Pocatello’s Irving Middle School had got into hot water for given a free lunch to a student who said she was hungry was officially terminated this week.
The Idaho State Journal reports that Bowden received a registered letter from the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District, saying she was dismssed “due to her theft of school district property and inaccurate transactions when ordering, receiving and serving food.
Bowden insist that when a 12-year-old girl told her that she was hungry but didn’t have enough funds for a hot lunch, Bowden gave her a free meal. Bowden added that she even offered to pay the district the $1.70 for the lunch, but her supervisor rejected the offer. Soon thereafter, Bowden was placed on termination leave and this morning’s State Journal reports that Bowden is now officially gone. School officials are declining to comment on the issue.
“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 told the State Journal.
ORIGINAL POST: Dec. 20, 2015
Dalene Bowden says she won’t apologize for giving a meal to a hungry Idaho student who didn’t have enough money to afford it. Bowden is a lunch lady at Pocatello’s Irving Middle School—at least, she is for now. Bowden has been placed on unpaid leave for her actions.
This morning’s Idaho State Journal reports Bowden has been working the lunch line for the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District for the past three years. Bowden said she’s never been in trouble before, with one familiar exception: she once gave away a cookie and was given a verbal warning.
“I love my job, I really do,” Bowden told the Journal. “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.”
School district officials said kids can have up to $11 of lunches on a “charge” account to their parents. Officials added that the district “makes extreme efforts to make sure children who live in economically disadvantaged homes receive free or reduced hot lunches.” Without discussing the details of the incident involving Bowden, district officials insist a student was not deprived of a lunch.
Bowden said she did give a lunch to the student and when a supervisor questioned her, she offered to pay the $1.70 for the hot lunch. Instead she was placed on what she said was “termination leave” and the school board will discuss her status at an upcoming meeting.
“She came to me, she said she was hungry and she didn’t have any money,” Bowden told the Journal. “I would do it again in the same situation.”
POCATELLO, Idaho – Lunch lady Darlene Bowden could lose her job for giving away a free lunch to a hungry student, despite offering to pay for the $1.70 lunch out of her own pocket.
Bowden told the Idaho State Journal she was placed on unpaid “termination leave” by her supervisor at the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25 for giving away a lunch to a hungry 12-year-old at Irving Middle School who didn’t have money to cover the meal.
“I love my job, I really do,” Bowden said. “This just breaks my heart, and I was in the wrong, but what do you do when the kids tells you that they’re hungry and they don’t have any money? I handed her the tray.”
District officials wouldn’t discuss Bowden’s predicament, but told the media students can charge up to $11 on their lunch account before their parents are notified, Boise Weekly reports.
Superintendent Douglas Howell told the Idaho State Journal local schools never “deny students a lunch,” but rather give those without money a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and milk.
“They try to do it privately and discreetly,” district spokesman Shelley Allen said.
Bowden alleges that’s not exactly accurate.
“If the kids can’t pay, and they’re over their limit, the workers take their tray away and dump it right there in the line,” she said, countering that the lunch she gave away did not come at the expense of other students.
Bowden said she was previously given a verbal reprimand for giving a cookie to a student. Bowden contends she’s built a rapport with students since she came to the district three years ago.
“Last year during an assembly, I got a standing ovation from the students when my name and photo came up on the screen,” she said. “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.”
Bowden said she offered to pay for the lunch, but was placed on leave instead. She’s expected to learn her fate at the next school board meeting, Bowden told the ISJ.
“I admit it – I screwed up and I gave her lunch,” she said. “I offered to pay for the meal, but it didn’t matter.”
Bowden also said she later learned that the student involved in the incident was within the $11 charge limit, and could have charged the lunch, but did not know her balance and was too embarrassed to ask.
“She came to me, she said she was hungry and she didn’t have any money,” Bowden said. “I would do it again in the same situation.”
Many folks rallied to Bowden’s defense online, and called for her to be reinstated immediately.
“Give her her job back, don’t be stupid,” Nancy Miller posted. “I’m glad I didn’t get a job working for the school district.”
“They should (give Bowden her job back) because she was the nicest lunch lady there that I knew,” Mylee Stone wrote. “This is bull crap.”
“I have worked with this woman at another job and she is the most honest and generous person I know,” Chantae Smith added. “I would have done the same thing. I hope this doesn’t end with termination.”
Not everyone, however, is on Bowden’s side.
“Sealing a $1.70 lunch is a badge of honor now?” Roger Christiansen questioned.