The Idaho high school basketball coach fired after the school district deemed a photo of her fiancé grabbing her chest as “immoral” says she is “discouraged” that she was fired while her fiancé, the school’s varsity football coach, kept his job.
“Obviously, I don’t want to see my fiancé to get into trouble but I was a little bit discouraged,” Laraine Cook, 31, of Pocatella, Idaho, told GoodMorningAmerica.com today. “They told me it was because it was on my Facebook account that I was being terminated.”
Cook, the mother of two elementary school-aged children, was fired from her job as a substitute teacher and head coach of the Pocatello High varsity girls’ basketball team Oct. 21 after the photo, showing fiancé Tom Harrison touching her chest, was anonymously delivered to the office of the school district’s superintendent, Mary Vagner.
The photo was taken in July while the couple, engaged since May, was on a family vacation. Cook posted the photo to an album on her Facebook page when they returned, and then removed it less than 24 hours later after the school’s athletic director advised Harrison that he should have Cook take it down.
“My fiancé ran into the athletic director at school and he said that, just to be safe, we may want to take that one picture down,” Cook said. “I respect my job and didn’t want to offend anybody so I took it down right away and hadn’t heard anything about it until Oct. 21.
“The athletic director didn’t say how or why he found it,” she said. “He just said, ‘You may want to take it out, just to avoid any problem.’”
While Cook was fired from her job, Harrison, who is also the high school’s golf coach and a physical education teacher, received a written reprimand in his file.
District spokeswoman Shelley Allen declined to comment on what she called a “personnel matter” when reached today by GoodMorningAmerica.com.
Cook, who says she had never been reprimanded in her nearly five years working for the school district, has retained a lawyer to fight the school board’s decision.
“District policy says anything obscene or immoral is fireable and they consider the photo immoral,” Cook said. “I don’t consider the photo immoral.
“My players have never said anything about the photo. The parents had never seen the photo until it came out and blew up here recently,” she said. “Everybody, they know me as a person and have had kind things to say, which I appreciate. I feel bad if I did happen to offend anyone out there. That was never my intention.”
Cook’s attorney, Gary Cooper, says they are now working through the school district’s grievance process, a three-step process that, he says, should take “two to three weeks” to complete.
“We completed step one and the result was that the district stayed with their decision,” Cooper said. “Step two is another meeting with the superintendent to see if we can work something out and then step three is the matter goes to a three-person panel for reviews and a decision.”
While Cook waits for the issue to be resolved, she is at home and uncertain of her future.
“That’s been the big stress of all of this,” she said. “I can’t work in this district anywhere.
“I’ve always been nothing but professional when I’m at my job,” Cook added. “I take it seriously. I love what I do. I love working with kids. I do what I do because I love it and that’s been taken from me and it’s been a little hard.”