A Colorado elementary school kitchen worker was fired last week for giving free lunch to students who didn’t have the money to pay for it. Apparently compassion and a love for children are punishable offenses in the Cherry Creek public school district.
Della Curry, a married mother of two, lost her job last Friday after refusing to give kids with no money the requisite one slice of cheese on a hamburger bun and small milk. She told CBS, “I had a first grader in front of me, crying, because she doesn’t have enough money for lunch. Yes, I gave her lunch.”
As most middle class families know, failing to qualify for assistance does not mean you have a landslide of extra money. To qualify for the district’s free lunch program, a family of four would have to have a household income of roughly $31,000. To qualify for reduced lunch, the income threshold is below $45,000. Curry told CBS the students she helped did not qualify for either program: “Kids whose parents make too much money to qualify, but a lot of times they don’t have enough money to eat,” she said. A parent whose child she helped said, “Do something different than fire her. She’s trying to help.”
The district’s policy is to provide hot lunches the first three times a student forgets, and charge the parents’ account. After that, the student gets a slice of cheese on bread. Why? Why not just continue to charge the parents’ account? Why the need to “punish” kids by giving them a slice of cheese on bread when there is plenty of food to feed them? That’s just archaic and stupid.
Curry says “If me getting fired for it is one way that we can try to change this, I’ll take it in a heartbeat.”
Elementary school lunchroom politics should not exist. Kids should never be “punished” by getting food withheld or by getting a different lunch than everyone else. Feed the kids first, work out payment with parents later. There is no way kids should be getting caught in the crossfire. It’s reprehensible that a woman who obviously cares for the welfare of the kids she works with has been fired over this.
The school released a statement that said, among other things, “The law does not require the school district to provide the meal to children who have forgotten their lunch money.” Oh, okay. You’re in the clear then. It would be nice to think that a district could look beyond the “law” and realize children should never be punished by a food program.
There have been several stories over the last few years of school cafeteria workers making the terrible decision to shame students for not having enough money in their accounts. In 2014, a Utah school actually confiscated and threw away the lunches of 40 children whose parents were delinquent on lunch payments. There was a collective outrage when those stories came out. There should be an equal outrage with this one. A compassionate woman should not be out of a job because a district’s lunch policy is inhumane.
We expect those who work in the school system to care for kids. Let’s not punish them for it.