Johnny Cook, a bus driver in Haralson County, Georgia, was just speaking his mind – on Facebook. A couple days later he was unemployed.
Here’s why: On May 21, a student at Haralson County Middle School boarded Cook’s bus and said he was hungry because he had fallen short on lunch money by forty cents. According to Cook, the child was denied his meal at the school cafeteria because of the deficit. The incident bothered Cook so much that he posted his thoughts about what happened on Facebook:
“A middle schooler got on my bus this evening and said mr johnny im hungry. I said why are you hungry buddy? Didn’t you eat lunch ? He said no sir I didn’t have any money on my account. I said they would let you charge it? No sir.
Huh! What! This child is already on reduced lunch and we can’t let him eat. Are you kidding me? I’m certian there was leftover food thrown away today. But kids were turned away because they didn’t have .40 on there account .
As a tax payer, 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.”
When Cook’s employers got wind of the post, they were not pleased. Citing video surveillance footage from the lunch-line area, the county’s superintendent Brett Stanton denied that the incident Cook wrote about ever happened. So the driver was given two options: Either recant his statement and apologize or be terminated. Cook stuck by his story, refused to apologize and lost his job.
“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 told CBS Atlanta. The child’s parents also back Cook’s version of what happened.
Now Cook wants his job back. A petition on Change.Org, which is asking the county to reinstate Cook, already has 10,000 signatures. Supporters are planning three rallies outside the County Board of Education’s offices — the first of which will be held June 11 — to help get Cook reinstated. Cook has also started a Facebook page called Johnny Cook “Johnny’s Kids”, which he is using as “a community outreach program designed to bring attention to every community that children are going hungry in our schools,” according to the page.
Cook isn’t the first person to get fired for embarrassing his employer on Facebook. In 2009, a paramedic got canned for posting a rant against her boss. And in 2011, Business Insider wrote about 17 similar incidents.