New policy draws praise

Prosser issues draft of social media changes

— A proposed policy could lead to firing school workers for social media posts they make on their own time.

The School Board last night reviewed a draft of an electronic communications/social media policy.

“Expressions on social media that cause an actual disruption or a potential disruption…may subject an employee to disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment,” the draft states.

It applies to social media posts made during an employee’s own time, on their own equipment.

“It is incumbent for the school district to have specific policy regarding expectations for all school district staff in the use of social media at all times, on or off duty,” Supt. Ray Tolcacher said.

The policy urges employees to think before they post, maintain decorum and not reveal personal information about students or employees.

“Do not allow anger or other negative emotions to cause you to post information that you will be sorry for later,” the draft said.

Tolcacher recommended the board move the policy to a first reading at the next regular school board meeting, which would be May 23.

Following that timeline, the policy would be formally adopted in June, during a subsequent board meeting.

The draft is being met with praise from those critical of former library assistant Peggy Brown’s Facebook posts opposing illegal immigration.

“It will be very strict,” Prosser parent Carie LaMarsh said. “Her and (husband) Dale’s social media posts on all of her sites will have to not be discriminative, racist or have any bigotry views.”

LaMarsh said the district needs to explain Brown’s return to work.

“We are still looking for answers as to why she came back?” she said.

Leo Perales of Consejo Latino has pushed for the district to adopt a new social media policy, and critical the district has not previously responded. He backs the draft under review.

“I believe this is a major improvement,” Perales said. “It is the first time that an institution has provided action and not merely just words.

“I believe this is a good balance and that this policy is not infringing on anyone’s First Amendment rights, but clearly states that words matter and that if the school district has to it will take action upon an employee,” he said.

The policy draft comes less than a week after the district reinstated Brown, an assistant librarian at Prosser Heights Elementary School. She came back to work last Thursday, but was re-assigned away from working with children.

Brown was placed on administrative leave in February following her Facebook posts that opposed those who are in this country illegally.

The social media review also stems from Facebook posts in February by Cheriese Rhode, a first-grade teacher at Keene-Riverview Elementary School.

Rhode returned to work in March.

Rhode in her February post encouraged community members to call federal authorities on those here illegally.

The posts opposed the “Day Without Immigrants” protest.

Brown said life was easier with fewer immigrants driving and immigrant children on campus.

Tolcacher said they were placed on leave not because they violated the district’s existing social media policy, but due to safety concerns.

Brown has since hinted at legal action.

LaMarsh’s public Facebook page, Not in Our Town Prosser, re-posted a recent statement Brown issued.

Brown called her suspension and re-assignment “character assassination” in a prepared statement to Tri-Cities area media. In the post, Brown continued, “Actions like this are what push people to the edge and forces them to seek legal counsel.”

Posts in response to Brown’s comments reflected some support for her

“She’s going to sue that school district and win! Good for her!” Colleen Hopkins Isley told LaMarsh. “All your fussing and blabbering will get her a good sum of money. That’s what you accomplished by running this FB page.”



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