Georgia Bus Driver Fired for Facebook Post

It's not the first time someone's been canned for publicly embarrassing the boss.

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Johnny Cook on CBS News Atlanta

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.

(MORE: Can You Be Fired for Bad-Mouthing Your Boss on Facebook?)

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.

(MORE: This Is Your Life (According to Your New Timeline))

6 comments
LeeTilson
LeeTilson

We need to stand up for this hero.  Here is a Facebook group  https://www.facebook.com/groups/58641277138899   


I faxed and e mailed this letter to the superintendent and  school board: 

__________________________


Brett Stanton, Superintendent

Haralson County Schools

299 Robertson Ave.

Tallapoosa, GA 30176

Re: Firing of Bus Driver Johnny Cook

Dear Superintendent Stanton

Thanks for your response of yesterday. That response did not address this issue from my first letter:

How do we find a path that will ensure that Johnny Cook is re-hired and hungry students are fed so that your school system can put this matter behind it and focus on educating students?

Are you investing more time and energy into attacking Johnny Cook than in solving the underlying problem of hungry students?

In response to my fax of yesterday, you suggested that  I read the article you suggested in the  Gateway-Beacon Newspaper. I did. The comments in that article suggest that Johnny Cook is completely sincere. He makes statements against his own self interest to the reporter. He admits not reading the manual. That enhances his credibility with me. Johnny Cook’s Facebook post is quoted as saying:

“What! This child is already on reduced lunch and we can’t let him eat. Are you kidding me? I’m certian (sic) 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. [...] the next time we can’t feed a kid for forty cent, please call me. We will scrape up the money. This is what the world has come to.”

You appear to be taking the position that Johnny Cook’s statement unnecessarily, and falsely, puts the school in a bad light. I am curious about why you believe this. Is it your position that no student has ever been told they cannot eat? Ever?

The article quotes you:

“Unless a child tells an adult they are hungry and have no money to pay for lunch that day, and they don’t go through the line and tell the lunchroom staff, we have no way of knowing,”  

I must question your statement. It would be a simple matter to have a checklist in the checkout line. Each child’s name is checked when he eats. The kids whose names are unchecked didn’t eat. Is that really so difficult? Obviously, there are other ways, but it would appear that you are not interested. Please prove me wrong.

Why do you have time to study the video when you are criticized? Why not study the video to see what kids are not being fed?

Johnny Cook is organizing to address the problem. I love it when employees of organizations with which I am involved take the initiative to solve important problems. If I was you, I would thank and celebrate Johnny Cook for calling public attention to this issue. Currently, he is trying to raise money for feeding the kids. He is a hero, not a goat.  If you put him in charge of fundraising lunch money, you could collaborate on a cause everyone recognizes as worthy:feeding hungry students. Your collaborating with him would make you and the school board  look like organizational geniuses.

Instead, the path you pursue makes it look as if what you care about is bad publicity and punishing your critics.

Johnny Cook’s  refusal to make a statement he believed false surely seems to prove that he puts the truth and the interests of the kids first. The article you suggested I read enhances his credibility.

Your firing him when he would not make a statement that he believed to be false and that he believed would hurt hungry kids undermines your credibility.

So far as I can tell, the following appear undisputed. .  

A student told Johnny Cook that he did not eat lunch that day.

The student in question did not eat lunch that day.

The student in question was hungry when he talked with Johnny Cook.

Your review of the video confirms that the student had not eaten lunch that day.

Your review of the video did not show that the student had been in line for lunch that day.

We do not know if there were other days or times when that student, or other students.  had been in line for lunch and denied lunch because of money.

Johnny Cook cares passionately for students.

Johnny Cook wanted to address the problem of hungry students.

Johnny Cook attempted to address that problem by posting his concern on Facebook.

Johnny Cook sincerely believed that his posts were accurate when he made them.

You recognize that Johnny Cook sincerely  believed his posts were accurate when he made them.

The reason Johnny Cook was fired was because of Facebook posts about students being hungry.

There is a recognized problem in the Haralson schools. Some students in the Haralson schools go hungry.

Johnny Cook was trying to address that problem when he made his post.

Johnny Cook’s only motive was to help hungry students

Johnny Cook was not offered any opportunity to participate in a solution of that important problem.

Johnny Cook was offered the chance to get his job back only if he made a public statement that he felt betrayed the children in the schools and that he believed to be false.

Since being fired, Johnny Cook has worked to see that hungry students are fed. He remains devoted to the students. He remains committed to solving the problem.

Please let me know if any of these are incorrect.

Let me direct two more questions to you.

How can we create a “win-win” solution? How do we find a path to use the connections and interest that Johnny Cook has generated to best use and ensure that children in your schools are not hungry? How do we solve the hunger problem in your schools?

How do we find a path to restore public confidence in you and your schools so that people can believe that you care as much about solving the underlying problems as you care about publicity? How can we redirect all this public criticism into finding a solution to the real problem?

Again, I want to make sure that I am thinking about this correctly. If any of my facts are mistaken. let me know.

If you have any other suggestions for resolving this matter, I would welcome an opportunity.  

Sincerely

Lee Tilson

cc: School Board

__________________________


https://www.facebook.com/groups/586412771388992/doc/586532031377066/

Here is the school board's  contact information.

http://www.haralson.k12.ga.us/SchoolBoard/eBoardBoardPolicyReviews/tabid/9731/Default.aspx

Fax: 770-574-2225
School board emails marthasmithfarms@att.net dhurst@quikconcepts.com mrsgailray@gmail.com gwhizfarms@aol.com billjohnstonhatd@yahoo.com
Superintendent E Mail brett.stanton@haralson.k12.ga.us

You can send a free fax withhttp://faxzero.net/ 

Here is a Facebook group  https://www.facebook.com/groups/58641277138899

daid.warner
daid.warner

It is cases like these that discourage me about employers in general. Why should he be forced to decide between recanting his statement and unemployment for simply stating what he claims to have witnessed? He didn't attack the school board directly. Johnny Cash was criticizing the system for a legitimate reason. 

  This only shows business' stranglehold on the rights of it's employers. I would clearly understand their decision had this man done something wrong or harmful to the school. Yet they're worried about an "allegation" that could potentially put them under a bad light. Disgusting.   

PaulGray
PaulGray

recant his statement, not recount
And honestly, the person who fired the driver should be terminated