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Panel says coach fired over photo should be reinstated

The grievance panel in the case of the Pocatello girl’s basketball coach fired for a Facebook photo has decided in her favor.

In the final stage of appeal, the panel reviewed the case against Laraine Cook and found her termination to be unfair.

It said there was no indication that her conduct was indecent or immoral under the code of ethics for professional educators

Because the Pocatello School District did not outline any terms of conduct for teachers on social media and because she had no prior marks against her, the board said her termination be revoked.

It suggested the time she has been away for now should be a suspension without pay and that she should be reinstated as substitute teacher and basketball coach for the 2014-2015 season.

Laraine Cook was fired after she posted a photo on Facebook showing her fiance, varsity football coach Tom Harrison, touching her chest. Cook took it down soon after it was posted because of concerns expressed by the athletic director, the panel said. Harrison was only reprimanded.

The panel recommended the district adopt a social media policy “to avoid confusion about standards of conduct.”

The decision is final, unless the Pocatello School District Board of Trustees votes to overturn the decision in its next meeting, or either side appeals in court within 42 days.

The grievance panel consisted of Diane Bilyeu, Robyn Brody and James D. Ruchti.

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