- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Two employees of the Prosser School District in Washington state have been placed on paid administrative leave in the wake of recent Facebook posts concerning last week’s “Day Without Immigrants” boycott.

Prosser Superintendent Ray Tolcacher announced Friday that a teacher had been placed on administrative leave as a result of remarks they allegedly made a day earlier about the demonstration, in which individuals across the country protested President Trump’s immigration policies by avoiding work and school.

“This is a great idea, narrows the search down,” Cheriese Rhode, a first-grade teacher at Riverview Elementary in Prosser, allegedly wrote in a Facebook post Thursday, along with contact information for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“If this offended you in anyway do me a favor and unfriend my American (expletive)!!!,” reads a since-deleted Facebook post attributed to the grade school teacher. “This was going viral on my daughter’s SnapChat … TRUMP all the way!!!”

The remarks made waves within hours and spurred a response from the superintendent the following day after the predominantly Hispanic school district received a flurry of complaints, the local Tri-City Herald newspaper reported.

“Due to possible safety and security concerns, as well as concern for disruption of the school environment, this teacher has been placed on administrative leave pending investigation,” Mr. Tolcacher said in Friday’s statement. “Please be assured that the views expressed by this teacher on her personal Facebook page do not in any way reflect the views, beliefs or values of the Prosser School District or its administration or Board of Directors.”

The superintendent issued a similar statement four days later, however, after another District employee, Prosser Heights Elementary library assistant Peggy Brown, attracted criticism on account of her own comments on the event.

“I had an absolutely great day today,” Ms. Brown allegedly wrote in Thursday evening Facebook post. “Lots of grade school kids stayed home today for the immigrants protest. I loved it. Sure alleviated the over crowding at school. No out of control kids, like it should be going to school. Like school should be. I hope they can do it again soon.”

Ms. Brown met with administrators Tuesday morning and was placed on paid leave as well after her comments caused the School District to receive “hundreds of calls, threats and concerns,” her and her husband said in a Facebook post afterwards.

“They’re trying to paint me as a racist because I speak my mind,” Ms. Brown told KVEW-TV this week. 

Mr. Tolcacher said both faculty members will remain on leave indefinitely pending the results of a School District investigation, the likes of which will involve considering any potential violations of Washington’s code of professional conduct, a spokesman for the state’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s Equity and Civil Rights told the Tri-City Herald.

Additionally, the Prosser School District has a social media procedure in place that says “All staff members will be responsible for information that they make public through the use of electronic communication,” KEPR-TV reported Tuesday.

“When staff members communicate as employees of the district in their online communications, they must be aware that readers may assume they ‘speak for the school district.’ Therefore, all online communications must be professional, comply with codes of conduct, and reflect positively on the Prosser School District,” the policy states.

Ms. Rhode has not commented publicly on the Facebook post or the District’s response, a local CBS affiliate reported.

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