There is no shortage of ethical challenges in a school nutrition setting. Raise awareness about these with members of your own team by discussing the following case study. You are the cafeteria manager for a high school in a small district. The administrative building is immediately adjacent and you are accustomed to interacting with the superintendent and other department heads, who periodically stop by your cafeteria for lunch. One day, the superintendent contacts you, requesting that you take charge of a small, catered birthday party for the popular president of the school board. The party is scheduled for tomorrow, a school day. Because the school nutrition director is out of town on personal travel, the superintendent needs you to step in. He explains that he has ordered a cake from the local bakery and has asked that you or your staff pick it up—along with a fresh fruit salad, ice cream, coffee and cold drinks for approximately 50 people. The party will be held at 1 p.m. in the administrative office board room. The superintendent instructs you to purchase the extra food from a local supermarket and submit receipts. He informs you that he is not going to pay for related labor costs associated with this last-minute event, however, because your staff members “are already paid to work.” He acknowledges that the timing of this party is inconvenient with lunch service at the school, but he knows that “you can make it work.” There is a procedure to follow for catering requests and this is not it. You know your director would not approve, but this is a directive of the district superintendent. What Should You Do? SUGGESTED TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION: • What aspects of this case study make you uneasy? Why or why not? • As described, are any of the actions illegal? Immoral? Could someone’s job be at risk? • What might the reaction be if details about this scenario were shared outside the department? How would reactions vary among school administrators/board of education members, the state agency, the media and parents? • Do we have a district or department policy that would apply to this situation? Does everyone know about it and adhere to it? • Does this scenario bring up other ethical challenges we should discuss? • How should we go about raising concerns or reporting incidents of unethical behaviors? What if we don’t all agree that an activity or behavior is unethical? • How would you answer the question posed at the end of the scenario? What Should You Do? Ethical Decision-Making In School Nutrition This ethical case study was developed for but may or may not be included in the final version of SNA’s What Should You Do? Ethical Decision-Making in School Nutrition training course (see page 44). The discussion questions included here are intended to help SN readers raise awareness about ethical dilemmas in the workplace. SNA’s programming goes further, guiding participants through a decision-making tree and providing other resources to build skills.
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