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Sept. 19, 2020

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Camas principal on leave after getting threats over Bryant comments

Student walkout for crash victims canceled

By , Columbian Education Reporter
Published:

The Camas School District has placed a principal on administrative leave following comments she made on social media suggesting basketball star Kobe Bryant’s death was deserved.

The former Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard was among nine people, including his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, who died Jan. 26 in a helicopter crash outside of Los Angeles. That same day, Camas High School Principal Liza Sejkora wrote, “Not gonna lie, seems to me that karma caught up with a rapist today.”

Superintendent Jeff Snell wrote a letter to parents Tuesday night, reporting that, “in light of threats to Dr. Sejkora and concern from our community, Dr. Sejkora has been placed on administrative leave today pending the outcome of our investigation.”

District spokeswoman Doreen McKercher said the school has received “disturbing” voice mails about Sejkora’s comments, and vague threats against her have been made on social media. None of the threats were determined to be credible, but Camas police and district faculty were on site to provide extra security.

“We’re trying to keep the learning environment safe and appropriate for our students, and it makes sense to remove a staff member who’s attracting that much attention,” McKercher said.

Nearly half of the school’s 2,124 students ended up calling out for either some or all of the school day.

Sejkora, who has worked at Camas High School since 2017, later deleted the post. On Monday, she issued an apology to Camas High School families, describing her post as “inappropriate and tasteless.”

“While what I wrote was posted on a private Facebook account to people who are my friends and was quickly removed, I acknowledge that private does not always mean private,” Sejkora wrote.

Nancy Talner, a senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, said the law regarding First Amendment protections for public employees speaking privately on social media are still evolving. 

“Certainly everybody does have a personal sphere and their private sphere, but because of the nature of social media, it can be hard to draw that line,” she said.

Bryant was arrested and accused in 2003 of raping a 19-year-old woman working at a hotel in Colorado. He denied the allegations, and the charges were dropped after the accuser decided she would not testify. In 2005, he settled a civil lawsuit with the woman who made the accusation for an undisclosed amount.

Laurie Schacht, director of the sexual assault program at YWCA Clark County, did not want to comment specifically on Sejkora’s comments or the district’s response. However, she acknowledged the fraught legacy the death of a celebrity accused of sexual assault may leave. The lionization of celebrities can have the effect of downplaying the harm done to victims.

“It brings up what other people may have experienced when a celebrity dies and is memorialized,” Schacht said. “It also reinforces that nothing was recognized about the harm they may have done. It reinforces what someone else may have experienced.”

Information

The YWCA Clark County Sexual Assault Program provides 24-hour support to victims of sexual assault and their families. Call 360-695-0501 to access services.

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