Coach Fired Over Sexy Facebook Pic Could Lose Teaching License

Idaho State Journal
Laraine Cook, a high school girls' basketball coach in Pocatello, Idaho, was fired for posting on Facebook a picture that showed her fiancé, Tom Harrison, grabbing her covered breast, as AOL Jobs reported last weekend. It might seem like a harsh punishment given that the photo was up only 24 hours back in July and Harrison, a winning football coach for the same school, only received a reprimand.

Now things have become even worse for the single mother of two. Cook claims that local school officials have requested that the state review her teaching certificate and possibly have it revoked on the grounds of "immorality."

It seems a heavy response and the loss of her teaching certificate would mean that Cook could no longer work as a substitute teacher, as she did in addition to coaching. In a video interview with the Idaho State Journal, Cook says that she had posted the picture in question along with many others in July after a family vacation. The school's athletic director told Harrison "that I might want to be safe and just remove that one picture" from her Facebook album "so there wouldn't be any problems."

"I hadn't heard anything about it or heard anything at all until October 21," Cook added, "when I was told to come into the office and they told me that the picture had been received at the district office and they were asking me to either choose to resign or be terminated." They deemed the photo was "immoral."

As television station KPVI reported, a press release from the school district stated that it had a responsibility to report what might be perceived as a violation of the state's code of ethics for educators and that doing so "does not mean that the reporting entity or individual is advocating for any outcome."

The district did not state it had filed a complaint but it outlined its responsibility to do so if it learns of any possible violation. It also did not state which principle of the ethical code may have been violated. The facts of the firing as they have been reported so far by KPVI News 6 and confirmed by Laraine Cook's attorney do not shed any light on which principle Cook could possibly be in violation of.

A reading of the code of ethics itself does state that a "professional educator reports breaches of the Code of Ethics for Idaho Professional Educators and submits reports as required by Idaho Code." That still leaves the question of what the ethical violation would be, although one possibility would be under the tenth principle of the code:

A professional educator ensures just and equitable treatment for all members of the profession in the exercise of academic freedom, professional rights and responsibilities while following generally recognized professional principles.

One of the examples of a possible violation was "taking inappropriate pictures (digital,
photographic or video) of colleagues." There is no definition of the term "inappropriate" in the code, potentially leaving significant latitude for interpretation.

However, the photo of Cook and Harrison was clearly taken by a third party and not either of them. If Cook were guilty of an ethics violation simply by being in the image, why wouldn't Harrison?

Calls placed by AOL Jobs to Cook and her lawyer were not returned. A spokesperson for the school district, Shelley Allen, told AOL Jobs: "We are not giving interviews. We are not making statements. We are not speaking about this because the law forbids us from doing such."
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