Bus driver loses job after Facebook post about student going hungry
HARALSON COUNTY, GA (CBS46) -
A bus driver recently lost his job over a Facebook post.
The last week of school in Haralson County, a student told driver Johnny Cook he was hungry because his lunch card was 40 cents short, so he didn't get to eat lunch at Haralson County Middle School.
Cook couldn't get what the student told him off his mind.
"Had it on my mind and had it on my heart and simply made the Facebook post that said that, 'Mr. Johnny I'm hungry,' and told the story exactly like it was. I posted my phone number and said 'the next time we have a kid at the register for 40 cent and we can't feed him, please call me. I'll scrape up the money.' About 200 people liked it, loved it, did all the things that Facebook does and it just caught fire," Cook said.
The next day Cook was called in for a meeting with the superintendent. He was given two options - essentially recant and apologize or be fired.
"I felt like in my heart of hearts the kid was telling the truth. Whether he was or whether he wasn't, I believed him. So I was not going to recant the story," Cook said.
Cook was fired. He put that on Facebook. One post alone had more than 155,000 shares.
"I've had phone calls from here to Spokane, WA, to Texas to Maine saying 'That happened to my kid, thank you for standing up,'" Cook said.
But there are always two sides to every story.
"I can assure you it did not happen," Haralson County Superintendent Brett Stanton said.
Stanton said he investigated the incident thoroughly.
"The video surveillance footage clearly shows that the student never went through the lunch lines at the county middle school," Stanton said.
Therefore, Stanton said, the boy couldn't have been offered the bagged lunch for students in his situation.
When asked if someone should have noticed the boy wasn't eating lunch, he said, "When you have almost 1,000 students, it's very difficult to notice."
Stanton wouldn't discuss Cook's termination because it's a personnel matter, but did say the school district has a strict Facebook policy.
CBS Atlanta reached out to the sixth-graders family. They backed Cook's story. The boy wrote this statement about what happened:
"On Tuesday, May 21st, I could not eat lunch at school because I did not have lunch money. My parents forgot to give it to me. I owed 40 cents for lunch on Friday. I sat at a table with no lunch while other children ate lunch.
"I got on Mr. Johnny's bus and he asked me what was wrong with me. I told him I did not get to eat lunch because I did not have any money and the lunchroom lady would not let me charge a lunch. I did not eat lunch at school that day. No one offered to pay for my lunch and no one offered me a sandwich or a banana or apple.
"The next day Dr. Ridley called me to his office and asked me what bus I ride. When I told him Mr. Johnny's bus number he asked me about lunch. I told him that I got my tray and because I did not have any money the lunchroom lady told me to put the tray back and go sit down. Dr. Ridley told me that I would never go hungry again and to go back to class."
And as far as Cook losing his job, he said he wouldn't change a thing.
"I'm proud of the reaction and I'm proud I was able to make a stand when some people may not be able to. And maybe I was able to make a change, in some way, cause a little change," Cook said.
Cook drove the bus so he could have medical insurance for his family. It expires at the end of June. There is an online petition for people to sign in support of Cook getting his job back, as well as an apology. Click here to see it.
Here is the district's social networking policy:
"Students who post or contribute any comment or content on social networking sites that cause a substantial disruption to the instructional environment are subject to disciplinary procedures. Employees who post or contribute any comment or content on social networking sites that causes a substantial disruption to the instructional environment are subject to disciplinary procedures up and including termination."
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