Johnny Cook is not just a Georgia bus driver but a father. It was perhaps the later status that led Cook to voice a concern on Facebook over children who were going hungry at Haralson County Schools. He posted a comment on Facebook after learning that a sixth-grade student was denied lunch because he was 40 cents short to buy lunch. Cook wrote on Facebook “This child is already on reduced lunch and we can’t let him eat. Are you kidding me? … The next time we can’t feed a kid for forty cent, please call me. We will scrape up the money.” That was posted on May 21. On May 23 he was fired by Superintendent Brett Stanton (left).
Superintendent Brett Stanton insists that Cook had to go because he violated the school’s social media policy that warns staff members “who post or contribute any comment or content on social networking sites that causes a substantial disruption” in the school are subject to termination. Stanton considers voicing concern over a child going hungry is a “substantial disruption” of his school system.
Stanton also insists that he has looked at surveillance videotapes and does not believe the child ever went through the line. The child however wrote a letter insisting that it did happen: “I 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.” Other parents say it is Stanton and the school which is lying and that they have seen this occurred with other children.
In the end, the veracity of the child is not important. It is the policy, and its interpretation, that needs to be addressed. I fail to see why public employees cannot voice objections of the treatment of children without being fired for causing a “substantial disruption.” If a single Facebook posting meets that definition, I cannot imagine what would not do so. It is all part of this growing authoritarian environment in our schools from zero tolerance rules to monitoring the private conduct of teachers.