Prosser school officials placed a teacher on administrative leave Friday for using Facebook to urge people to call immigration agents to report suspected illegal residents.
Cheriese Rhode, a first-grade teacher in Prosser, reportedly posted a message Wednesday night on her personal Facebook page urging people to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement in connection with the A Day Without Immigrants Boycott.
People closed businesses around the nation Thursday and kept children home from school to demonstrate how crucial immigrants are to the U.S. economy.
“This is a great idea, narrows the search down,” said the Facebook post, which included a phone number for the agency.
“If this offended you in anyway do me a favor and unfriend my American (expletive)!!!” said the post. “This was going viral on my daughter’s SnapChat ... TRUMP all the way!!!”
The message generated a flurry of phone calls and emails to the Prosser School District, where nearly 62 percent of the students are Hispanic.
Prosser Superintendent Ray Tolcacher said people even visited school district offices out of concerns over the post, and on Friday he issued a statement about a teacher’s suspension. The district did not name the teacher.
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.
Prosser Superintendent Ray Tolcacher
“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,” he wrote.
“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,” said the statement.
Later on Friday, Tolcacher told the Herald, it’s not clear what steps the district could take in response to a statement made outside of class.
Rhode is in her second year of teaching in the Prosser district. According to her Facebook page, she graduated from Columbia Basin College and Heritage University with degrees in elementary education and an endorsement to teach English as a second language.
At least one commenter urged people to complain to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s Equity and Civil Rights Office.
No one was in the office late Friday to answer how that office may be involved.
The school district’s investigation will determine whether Rhode’s statements violated the state’s code of professional conduct, said OSPI spokesman Nathan Olson.
Violations of the code can involve teachers behaving inappropriately with children in their role as a teacher. Other violations can include stealing from the district or breaking state or federal laws.