An Idaho school district is under fire after they terminated a high school basketball coach and part-time teacher for a seemingly innocuous vacation photo that she posted on Facebook.
Pocatello, Idaho School District 25 fired Laraine Cook, a varsity girls basketball coach at Pocatello High School, after they discovered a photo from her Facebook page that showed her fiancé touching her fully-covered breast while posing at a family reunion. Both Cook and her fiancé are wearing bathing suits in the photo.
The school district is also looking into revoking her teaching certificate based on grounds of immorality.
Here's where the story gets particularly wrinkly. Although Cook was dismissed on October 23rd, the photo that spurred her dismissal was actually taken and posted back in July - and it was only on Facebook for a couple of days. Cook actually removed the photo on the advice of the Pocatello High School Athletic Director, in order to avoid any problems that might spring up.
The School District only learned of the photo's existence when an image of the photo was mailed to them in October.
“They told me that picture had been received at the district office, and that they were asking me to choose to either resign or be terminated,” Cook said. “I was told the reason I was dismissed was because it had been posted on my Facebook. However, our school district doesn’t have any social media policy.”
And even if they did, this is grounds for immediate termination?
Not only is the school district receiving backlash for the inarguably harsh reaction, but they are also fielding sexism accusations.
While Cook was fired and is facing a future with no teaching license, her fiancé, who is Pocatello High's football coach, only received a verbal reprimand. He still has his job. The school's justification? The photo was posted on her profile.
Cook has currently been granted the right to an appeal, and she says that a lawsuit is not out of the question.
Although Pocatello School District 25 doesn't allow post by others on its Facebook page, it does have reviews. People are sounding off there, and it's not pretty.
"Your treatment of Lorraine Cook is nothing short of idiotic. You have succeeded only in making Pocatello High School the laughing stock of America. I'm glad Ms. Cook has a good attorney, and I hope the mental midgets responsible for this weapons-grade stupidity pay dearly. You should all be ASHAMED!" says one user.
"The Ruling against the Female Coach is total Hypocrisy and you need to get hip to the 21st century. Scarlet Letters went out several centuries ago. If she is wrong then so is he," says another.
"Seriously School District 25? YOU ARE A JOKE!! No wonder Idaho is 48th in K-12 education. School district officials are clearly more concerned with teacher's personal lives, than actually educating Idaho's youth."
While it's true that operating a social media account (especially as a teacher or other public figure) comes with its fair share of risks, it appears that Cook has a pretty strong case here. Not only is the photo far from irresponsible and offensive, but it was removed months ago. Toss in the fact that the male in the photo was given a slap on the wrist and you have a recipe for outrage.
What do you think?