School Bus Driver Fired Over Facebook Post
Yet another worker has been fired for speaking up on social media and has become a cause celebre in the process. Johnny Cook was a bus driver for the Haralson County Middle School in Georgia. In late May, a student boarding the bus told Cook he was still hungry because he was forty cents short for the reduced lunch. He told Cook that he wasn't even given any lunch, not even the peanut butter offered to everybody, reports Atlanta TV station WXIA. Outraged, Cook posted about it on Facebook on May 21, criticizing the school system, his employer.
In it he wrote:
This child is already on reduced lunch [program] and we can't let him eat. Are you kidding me? I'm certian [sic.] there was leftover food thrown away today. But kids were turned away because they didn't have .40 on there [sic.] account. As a tax payer [sic.], I would much rather feed a child than throw it away. I would rather feed a child than to give food stamps to a crack head [sic.]."
His post, so far, has attracted more than 250 "likes" and 2,000 "shares." It also led to him getting fired. County Superintendent Brett Stanton told local media that the school district has a strict policy about comments on social media. According to CBS Atlanta, the policy says that employees who post anything that causes "substantial disruption to the instructional environment" will be subject to discipline. Stanton told WXIA that Cook never contacted the school system about his concerns, and he said that the school investigated and found no evidence that the incident with the student occurred.
Cook, who is married and the father of two kids, told CBS Atlanta that he felt in his "heart of hearts the kid was telling the truth." His story has captured the public imagination -- a petition has been posted to Change.org calling for Cook's job to be reinstated. It's garnered more than 10,000 signatures.
National School Lunch Program.
According to Stanton, students who don't have enough money on their reduced lunch card are still offered up to three alternate meals, most often a peanut butter sandwich. "With the policies we have in place," he said. "It would be almost impossible for a student not to be fed if he went through the line."
The student's parents have expressed support for Cook, according to Time.com. In addition to the online petition, supporters have created a Facebook page, called "Johnny's Kids." And on Thursday, Cook's supporters announced two fundraisers throughout the summer in the Atlanta suburb of Buchanan to help Haralson County students pay for school lunches.
Whatever happens to Cook, his experience is no longer unusual. Just recently, AOL Jobs has reported on a Chili's waitress who got fired after insulting the "stupid cops" in her community on her Facebook page. Previously, a Georgia teacher was asked to resign from her job after posting a photo of herself drinking in a European pub.
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Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.
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