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December 24, 2013 at 9:02 AM

Idaho girls’ basketball coach fired over Facebook photo might be reinstated

POCATELLO, Idaho (AP) — A grievance panel has concluded that the former Pocatello High School girls’ basketball coach should get her job back after she was fired over a photograph posted on her Facebook page that showed another district employee touching her chest.

The other employee is Laraine Cook’s fiance, who coaches the high school’s football team. Cook was dismissed in October after the school district learned that the photograph showed her fiance, Tom Harrison, touching her clothed chest while they were vacationing in eastern Oregon.

Cook is challenging the dismissal, and the three-member District 25 Grievance Panel was created as a part of that challenge.

Harrison, an Idaho High School Football Hall of Fame coach, hasn’t been removed from his coaching role for appearing in the photo, though he has said he was reprimanded by school officials.

The Idaho State Journal reports the grievance panel released its decision Monday concluding Cook’s firing should be rescinded, that Cook should be reinstated as a substitute teacher and she should be hired as the basketball coach next year.

Additionally, the panel — comprised of former Democratic state legislators James Ruchti and Diane Bilyeu of Pocatello and Rupert attorney Robyn Brody — recommended that the period spanning Cook’s dismissal and Monday’s decision should be considered a suspension without pay.

And the three-person grievance panel also recommended that District 25 “adopt a social media policy to avoid confusion about standards of conduct and instruct employees about the standard to make sure it is understood.”

The district currently doesn’t have a social media policy.

The decision will stand unless the district’s trustees overturn it by resolution. According to the decision, however, the school board has 42 days to appeal to the district court in Bannock County.
District Superintendent Mary Vagner declined to comment.

The photo in question was taken during a family reunion in July near Joseph, Ore.

It shows Harrison and Cook in an embrace, with one of Harrison’s hands on Cook’s chest.

Cook has said she removed the image shortly after it was called into question by the school’s athletic director.

Cook didn’t immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press seeking comment on Tuesday.

0 Comments | More in General news, Government, Politics | Topics: coach fired, Facebook photo, girls' basketball coach

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