Quick! Act Tolerant!!

Dinner lady fired after serving gammon to Muslim pupil

Alison Waldock, a lunch lady working the food line in a primary school in Cambridge, England, was fired the other day for inadvertently serving gammon (a pork dish) to Khadija Darr, a young Muslim student after she asked for it.

If I have the chain of events down correctly,Khadija got the meal, the headteacher stopped her before eating it, then alerted school officials, who contacted Khadija’s parents, who called Alison’s supervisors, who immediately fired her for “gross misconduct due to ‘negligence, carelessness or idleness’.”

Whew.  There was not a single pair of underwear that went unbunched in the entire county of Cambridgeshire.

Unless you count some of the local Muslims, who didn’t see what the big deal was.

… British group Campaign Muslim4UK branded Alison’s sacking ‘heavy-handed’.

Chairman Inayat Buglawala said: “Dismissing a dinner lady for inadvertently serving pig meat is an overreaction.

“The most sensible way to rectify such mistakes is to improve awareness of the pupils’ dietary requirements while apologising to the pupils and their parents.

“Mistakes occasionally happen. I’m sure the overwhelming majority of Muslim parents would be understanding.”

I haven’t heard of anyone else int he local Muslim community getting upset about what happened, but maybe I missed something.  What thickens the plot somewhat is that the school told Khadija’s parents that Alison didn’t care about the mistake, and wasn’t at all upset about it when it happened.  This directly contradicts her own testimony of the event after hearing of the error.

“I went out and apologised to the headteacher, who was obviously annoyed. I said I was sorry and that it was a mistake. The head could tell I was upset and sorry.

“A week later there was an investigation and I was told that the school did not want me on site. I was gob smacked. I haven’t been back since.

“I feel so let down by the school. I had worked there a long time. I just made a mistake and I am sorry.”

This also doesn’t address the logistical issue of having servers like her able to know, at a glance, what each student can and cannot eat.

Alison, who lives in Cambridge, said there were around 40 pupils with various dietary requirements and it was impossible to keep track of them with the lists she was given.

Regardless of how much remorse she did or didn’t show at the time, I agree with the Muslim4UK chairman in that firing someone for accidentally serving pork to a Muslim is a little much, and that the best way to have handled it would have been an apology and better access to each student’s dietary needs as they step up to the counter. (For the record, even if they were upset, my position would be the same for the above reasons.)

This entire situation smacks of nothing more than heavy-handed political correctness.  I think the folks running Lunchtime UK don’t want to be seen as culturally insensitive, so instead of thinking of a rational response to the situation, they figured they’d fire the person who was the source and get on with their day.  It’s an easy decision for them, since it requires absolutely no thought on their part and supposedly makes them look “tough on intolerance”.

In reality, it just makes them look like a bunch of thoughtless cowards.  Seriously, unless this were a medically sensitive situation involving a severe food allergy, there’s no reason to fire someone over accidentally handing out haram food when the kid asks for it.  Alison didn’t know.  Khadija probably didn’t know.  It was a mistake.  Things like this happen.  Even if she had eaten it, I don’t even think it would have been considered a sin since it wasn’t intentional.  Instead, we have an entire school and a catering company falling over themselves in the name of “tolerance” and an employee with an 11-year tenure fired over a simple, correctable mistake.

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9 Responses to Quick! Act Tolerant!!

  1. erickeys says:

    ” It’s an easy decision for them, since it requires absolutely no thought on their part and supposedly makes them look “tough on intolerance”.”

    It also means they don’t need to do anything to address the underlying problem of how to meet the dietary requirements on the kids. Put the burden on the dinner ladies. Put enough fear in them and they’ll figure it out, right? Why bother changing procedures when you can just bully people?

    • In some degree of their defense, the article made it sound like there was a list of students with their dietary needs, and this particular issue was a result of the list not being as accessible as it should have been to the front line people. That clearly doesn’t excuse anything else they did though.

  2. Yes, well, I was just referring to my book of rightness, and it seems that it is so much more right to fire a low-paying, loyal employee than to allow her to get away, unpunished, with putting pork on a plate and into the hands of a girl who didn’t even have a chance to dig in.

    • We see the same thing around here with our public transit company. If anyone gets hit, the first thing they do is blame their own employees instead of trying to find out what really happened. This is in part because management has been trying to bust the unions for a long time, and getting the public against them is one of the easier ways to help do it.

  3. Oh, and one more thing. So ironic that the school is teaching how not to be tolerant and how not to forgive….

  4. Reason 567 never to be a cafeteria lady. WTF? I still don’t get why God gets upset about someone eating pork. But anyway, like you said, if it was an actual food allergy that would be one thing, but even then that’s why people send kids that sensitive to school w/ freaking epipens. Because it’s damn near impossible to make sure a kid isn’t exposed to stuff like peanuts. Which begs the question – why didn’t the little girl’s parents just pack her a lunch? That would make sure she’d get just what they wanted her to have.

    • erickeys says:

      Oddly enough, it doesn’t sound like the girls parents were the big issue. It sounds like it was the school that went ballistic and started firing anyone in sight. But maybe I’m misreading the situation.

      • Yeah, that is the weird part. I mean a headmaster felt the need to point this out – otherwise neither kid nor parent might have been the wiser (and I doubt God would have cared). So why did she do it? Was she just a busybody, or did she have a parent issue before and was jumping the gun to save her butt this time?

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