Cherry Creek School District hit the headlines this week when they allegedly fired an elementary school dinner lady for giving free food to students who were unable to pay. Della Curry worked at the Dakota Valley Elementary School as the kitchen manager until she lost her job on Friday, May 29th, for what she claims was a humanitarian act of ensuring young children didn’t go without a fulfilling, nutritional lunch.
Cherry Creek School District, whose motto is ‘Dedicated To Excellence’ has a school policy that restricts what a child can eat from the school canteen should they be unable to pay. Free meals are offered to families on a low-income, a threshold of $31,000 per annum, whereas families with an income of below $45,000 per annum are entitled to a reduced price. Those students who simply forget their lunch money are given a school meal, to be paid for at the next opportune moment. This option is only available three times, after which the meal available is restricted to a sandwich and a carton of milk. Curry says this is unacceptable and that she gave free, hot meals to students because she didn’t want them to go hungry, “I had a first grader in front of me, crying, because she doesn’t have enough money for lunch,” Curry said, “Yes, I gave her lunch”. She insists the students she helped were not entitled to either the free or reduced school meals programs.
Curry, a married mother of two, was aware of the school policy during her employment and chose to disregard it, regardless of the consequences. In her one year of employment Curry estimates she gave away 20 free meals to hungry students. When she was fired, she spoke out to the media in the hope that it would bring about important changes to the Cherry Creek School District’s meal policy, “If me getting fired for it is one way that we can try to change this, I’ll take it in a heartbeat,”Curry told reporters.
The internet was taken aback by the school district’s decision to fire 35-year-old Curry as it was apparent her motives were unselfish and solely had the children’s benefits in mind. However, in a statement issued by Cherry Creek School District on Wednesday, June 3rd, the Colorado officials claimed that Mrs. Curry was not dismissed for giving food to financially restricted children. The statement, which is posted on the Cherry Creek School District’s website, alleges that Curry lost her job after numerous disciplinary incidents, none of which related to helping feed hungry children. It then went on the defend its school meals programs, “We reiterate again that no child is allowed to go without food,’ the statement declared “Students who do not qualify for a Free and Reduced lunch can receive 3 full meals prior to receiving an alternate meal such as a turkey, chicken or cheese sandwich”.
At this time the school district can only divulge the details of the former dinner lady’s offences and her dismissal with the permission of Mrs. Curry, which she has refused to give. As Cherry Creek School District continues to deny firing any member of staff for giving free food to hungry students, Curry is busy looking for another job.
By Alison Klippenstein
CBSDenver: Kitchen Manager Fired For Giving Lunch To Students Without Money
Denver Post: Cherry Creek Schools fires employee who gave free lunch to hungry kids
Cherry Creek Schools: Statement from the Cherry Creek School District regarding former food service employee
Photo Courtesy of Coventry City Council’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License