A school bus driver fired by the Haralson County School District for one of his Facebook posts has filed a lawsuit against the district and superintendent.
The American Civil Liberties Union is representing Johnny Cook, or "Mr. Johnny" as the kids called him. It was on his route last May when he heard of a student going hungry. The student was not able to get a 40-cent credit to eat lunch at school. He sparked a conversation on Facebook about it and the problems began.
“It could've been a win, win, win for our whole community,” said Cook.
Instead, the Facebook post written by Cook got him fired.
“The inquiry or the message was of kids going hungry and going hungry all over the nation,” Cook said.
Cook wanted to start a conversation on kids being fed lunch at school, in particular given a credit if they didn't have money. A conversation did start in the small town of Tallapoosa.
“We could've developed ways to pay for lunches for underprivileged students and bring a matter to light,” Cook said.
“This is one of the most egregious examples of a government entity restricting the free speech rights of one of its employees that we've seen in quite some time,” said attorney Mike Kendall.
Backed by attorneys for the ACLU, Cook said he would like his job back, but more importantly, change at the top.
“I'd love to see a change in our policies, in our speech policy, in our social media policy,” Cook said.
In Tallapoosa, many people support Cook and his fight.
The post never named names or called out his employer. Cook said he was given two options.
“I could recant my statement, write a statement that I had heard from them on that day that was favorable to the school system, publically apologize on Facebook, receive two weeks off without pay at the beginning of the school year next year or be terminated,” Cook said.
The school district told Channel 2 that it has not received a copy of the lawsuit. The district said it will respond when it receives the lawsuit.
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