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World & Nation

Co-workers’ sexy Facebook photo: She gets fired, he gets warning

A racy Facebook photo posted online by an Idaho high school women’s basketball coach has resulted in her firing. But the man in the picture with her -- her co-worker and fiance, the high school’s football coach -- walked away with just a reprimand.

The incident has some wondering whether sexism is at work. Others, though, say the dispute is far more complex than that.

Here’s what happened, according to the Idaho State Journal, which has been closely covering this controversial case: 

Pocatello High School girls basketball coach Laraine Cook used her public Facebook account to post a vacation photo that showed her dressed in a black bikini, smiling for the camera, while her fiance’s hand rests on her breast. Who is her fiance? Tom Harrison, the football coach at Pocatello High School in southeast Idaho. 

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The photo was posted online in July and taken down two days later after a colleague suggested it crossed a line. Fast forward to October. It appears someone anonymously emailed the photo to school administrators, Cook said.  

The football coach was reprimanded. As for Cook? She was fired and says school officials are now trying to revoke her teaching certificate over the “immoral” photo. (For her part, Cook says she is glad that her fiance got away with a reprimand.)

School spokeswoman Shelley Allen told the Los Angeles Times on Monday that there would be no comment on the case. 

Cook told the Idaho State Journal -- video above -- that she has served as a teacher and coach for years without complaint, and believes the punishment goes too far. She indicated that her Facebook account is limited to friends (not students) and added that the school does not have a social media policy. 

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“I spent four-plus years earning that degree.... To have that taken away for one picture, that’s hard because I worked really hard for that. That’s several years of work, money and time.”

Her story has been pinging around the Internet, with some saying it’s an example of sexism at work. “If this photo was so ‘inappropriate’ then BOTH parties in the photo should have been fired not just one. If I was Cook I would sue the school district for sexual discrimination,” said one comment posted on the Journal’s story.

Cook also told the newspaper she is focused on fighting to keep her teaching certificate, and is not considering legal action at this time. But she’s not ruling it out, either.

Another commenter on the Journal story said Cook only has herself to blame: “She knew it was inappropriate and posted it anyways!”

Still another commenter said both sides should cool the rhetoric, pending a full airing of the facts: “The best advice is always not to jump to conclusions unless and until the facts come out.”

One thing is for sure: This incident proves once again that you shouldn’t post anything online that you don’t want the whole world (and your boss, and your boss’ boss) to see. At the very least, check those Facebook privacy settings...

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