School Bus Driver Fired Over Facebook Post


GA Bus Driver Fired After Facebook Post Defending Student


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.

More: 1 In 10 Young Job Hunters Rejected Because Of Their Social Media

Cook has since been updating his page, too. On one post, he shared a note from the student, who said he "sat at a table with no lunch while other children ate lunch. ... No one offered to pay for my lunch and no one offered me a sandwich or a banana or apple." Citing that note, Cook has called for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to review the 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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851 Comments

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itspersonal11

Another example of why public employees need union support. This is wrong. I have not read the policy but a bus driver can't effect an instructional environment. That line is for educators.

June 17 2013 at 11:48 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
durland122

Where is the parent's blame. They couldn't give him/her an apple and pbj sandwich to bring to school? Too many people rely on the govn't. for their every need.

June 16 2013 at 7:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
pattybabes143

He told the truth. The schools throw away massive amounts of food every day. Its a big waste of taxpayers dollars. The lunch people know this very well because they dump the food in the garbage. Knowing this they should have given the child food. No excuse. & no excuse for the bus driver being fired for telling the truth.

June 15 2013 at 12:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Robert & Lisa

More reason to allow school choice with the voucher system.

June 13 2013 at 5:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
davthacker

The collectivists who control public schooling to a very high percentage do not respect the right of free speech. On their ground, you speak your mind, they will blast you out of there.

June 12 2013 at 7:10 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Holly

In the country where freedom of speech is a right we are having is slipping away, this is another example of the "corporate bully" who is running things (the govt). That school district should be ashamed that any child would walk away hungry and sit while others were eating. Which brings up another question: What kind of parents raise children who don't offer to share with others? When we were kids, if another kid was hungry, we shared our lunch with them. Even when my son (who is 19) was in K-12 the kids shared. Mr. Busdriver is right and should not have lost his job for having a big heart.

June 12 2013 at 4:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Holly's comment
sunshineclaimsfl

My Gosh Holly you certainly miss the whole point of this. Its not about freedom of speech its about following the rules. No one faults Cook for his intent just his execution and maybe his stupidity. If a kid tells you a story like that you bring it up to your superiors or just go to the cafeteria and ask questions. Never just take the kid at his word. You just dont take it to the social media especially when your job has strict specific rules against this very thing. A clear case of not looking before you leap. BTW he did not go to jail for what he said so the freedom of speech does not apply. He was free to post what he did and the district was free to fire him....................

June 12 2013 at 4:47 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to sunshineclaimsfl's comment
Lady Anne

I have to agree as the parent of a junior high student. I know my kid would rather not ask for lunch due to not having the 40 cents as to admit he didn't have the 40 cents. Kids get embarrassed about things such as not having money at school or not having a warm jacket to wear in the winter. Yet they will play it off as not having gotten the money from mom that morning or they would rather not have to carry a huge jacket around all the time and their hoodie is heavy enough. Something new happens every week to back this up with my kid. They have to learn their own lessons about these type of things. If you don't ask, you don't eat. It's your own responsibility. By the time they hit junior high, they should be able to talk to an adult and let them know they need money to buy lunch.

June 18 2013 at 6:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
nrthchrlt1

Firstly, no one should be able to use Facebook for anything other that being a social media. I think that the government has failed in maintaining their duty in protecting the basic rights spelled out in the USA Constitution. Technology is no defense for this.

Secondly, I noted some posters yelling for getting both sides of the story. Facebook is not the place for it, as it can be seen even here. We need to urge and promote the Press to provide us stories that give both sides as well as a thought out commentary. Facebook is a "social" media, it is not part and parcel ofthe Press. Though it is no wonder that people use Facebook, et al., as a last resort.

In this case, I would be interested in finding out who brought the posting to the attention of the school. And the why. I do fault the school for not investigating the issue that was uncovered. In many areas, the school administrations believe themselves not to be responsible to their charges.

June 12 2013 at 3:34 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Enviro-Tech

Maybe after enough of the public gets involved the parents might step in start giving their son .40 cents for lunch.

June 12 2013 at 3:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
pgpfineart

i completely understand his position, however there was no attempt made to go to the board about this or any school official instead it was placed on social media, if my employees felt i was unfair i would respect them coming to me telling me what the issue is so we could effectively work out a solution, i would not respect them going immediately to everyone they knew and complained about me - - this type of situation could have been an opportunity to change this for not only this child but all the children instead he assumed everyone was already aware this was going on, drew negative attention to this child and the school, and offered no solution in spite of the stipulations of his employment with the school, its wonderful to feel passionately about something and stand up for something but do something about it dont just complain that never gets anything done

June 12 2013 at 3:23 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Handsome John

This wasn't a good deed. It was a violation of policy of which he was fully aware. And when he commented about the "crack head", he was then obligated to specify which crack head that was getting food stamps so that the authorities could investigate. But he didn't do that did he? That's because he made the same kinds of assumptions that most people make. And everyone has the right to make ignorant assumptions but they don't have the right to keep their jobs after posting something like that on social media in violation of clear rules. He should have chosen another venue at which to vent his frustration. He did something stupid, he was fired, and now many are whining. How about he take responsibility for his actions?

June 12 2013 at 3:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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