About That Fired Lunch Lady: Is It Ever Okay to Steal?

The drama culminating in the recent termination of lunch lady Dalene Bowden from an Idaho school district raises questions which may never been answered. Here’s the rundown, as reported by the Idaho State Journal:

[Bowden] was placed on leave after she gave a free hot lunch to a 12-year-old girl who said she was hungry and didn’t have any money.

Bowden has now received a registered letter from the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District informing her that she has been fired.

The brief, one-page letter was signed by District 25 Director of Human Resources Susan Petit. It states that Bowden was dismissed due to her theft of school district property and inaccurate transactions when ordering, receiving and serving food…

Bowden said she offered to pay for the $1.70 lunch, but her supervisor rejected her offer.

Was this Bowden’s first disciplinary issue? Had she been counseled for similar infractions in the past? Was there reason to believe she might be guilty of grander violations of protocol?

With the information at hand, it seems odd that the school district would move straight to termination. Naturally, they have the right to do so. Certainly, in a position where money is handled, standards of integrity must be maintained. But giving food to a hungry kid could hardly be described as an act of malice.

Strictly speaking, Bowden committed theft. Regardless of the sentiment motivating her action, if she wanted to give a child a lunch, she should have paid for it on the spot. If she had, it would have made for a much more uplifting story than the one which we got.