Prosser School District employees can be disciplined if their personal social-media posts disrupt school activity under a recently enacted policy.
The district’s board of directors voted this week to enact a social media policy in the wake of the controversy when two district employees — a teacher and a library assistant — posted anti-illegal-immigrant statements on Facebook following the Day Without Immigrants boycott earlier this year.
The policy states that district employees have a constitutional right to express their opinions on controversial topics on their personal social media pages, but they can be disciplined if the comments could disrupt school operations.
Superintendent Ray Tolcacher said the new policy was drafted with help from the American Civil Liberties Union to ensure it did not trample First Amendment rights to free expression while protecting students from bullying.
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“It’s a different world,” Tolcacher said. “The fallout we had in Prosser can happen anywhere in the world.”
The comments posted in February by Keene-Riverview Elementary teacher Cheriese Rhode and Prosser Heights Elementary School library assistant Peggy Brown created an uproar in the community and calls for the district to discipline the employees and reaffirm that the children of immigrants would be safe in Prosser schools.
Both employees were placed on administrative leave, and Rhode returned to teaching in mid-March. Brown came back to work in May, but was reassigned as an office aide in the special services department. District officials have not commented on what discipline was meted out in the matter.