District rehires cafeteria worker who lost job over free meals given to student

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by KMOV.com staff and Diana Zoga / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on December 14, 2012 at 4:49 PM

Updated Friday, Dec 14 at 7:35 PM

ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) – The Webster Grove School District has rehired a Hudson Elementary School cafeteria worker just days after being fired for letting a student eat hot lunches for free. 

Dianne Brame said higher-ups within the district overruled her supervisor and reinstated her.

Brame said she was fired earlier this week for knowingly breaking a rule and letting a student eat hot lunches without paying for them.

Brame said she will not have to have conflict mediation between her and her boss to smooth over the issue. She added she was told there is a procedure already in place for getting hot meals to underprivileged children.

When talking to News 4, Brame also added the lunch restriction police at any school can be appealed so that no child would be served a certain meal on a permanent basis.

Brame said she was unaware of the appeals process but has been briefed on how to resolve similar issues in the future.

When initially giving the food to the student, Brame said she knew it would be an issue. She said it cost her her job.

“I understand that the food wasn’t mine to give,” says Brame.  “I was wrong in my actions, but I don’t think I was stealing.”

Brame says a fourth grader came through the school lunch line without money to pay for a hot meal.  The student was part of the free lunch program last year and Brame suspects the family did not understand that they had to reapply this year.  The student told Brame his mother did not speak English and his father was always at work.  Brame said she sent notes home with the student, but never heard back. 

“Routinely, what I was supposed to give them were cheese sandwiches, plain cheese sandwiches on whole wheat bread and a carton of white milk,” but Brame continued to give the student hot lunches instead of sandwiches. 

“Kids can be cruel to see this kid eating cheese sandwiches day after day after day.  ‘You don’t have any money in your account, that’s why you have to eat cheese sandwiches’.   And my heart just couldn’t tolerate that, so I broke the rule.”

The Webster Groves School District says it never allows a child to go hungry, no matter the ability to pay.  Children are given a number of complimentary hot meals, but if there’s no payment for an extended period of time the child receives a cheese sandwich.   (When News 4 called the school district late Thursday afternoon, a spokesperson couldn’t immediately confirm how complimentary hot meals are given before a student is served sandwiches).

Brame was employed by a food service management company that contracts with the Webster Groves School District.  Chartwells told News 4 that it cannot comment on personnel matters, but that it would look into whether Brame was treated fairly.  A district manager with Chartwells said she would reach out to Brame.

Brame told News 4 that the supervisor who confronted her on Tuesday offered Brame a demotion -  a cooking position at another school. 

“I know it’s no ones fault, but I don’t have a car.  It takes me 45 minutes to walk down to this school,” said Brame.

“Her alternative was to terminate me from my school that I loved a lot.”

 

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