ACLU asks Everett schools to apologize to student

The American Civil Liberties Union has sent a letter to the Everett School District asking for a public apology for North Middle School student Samantha Negrete and her family.

The request follows an incident last month in which Samantha, an eighth grade student, said she was pressured to open her Facebook page by the school’s vice principal as he was investigating a complaint of cyber-bullying that involved other students.

“Our hope is to work together with the school district to find a resolution to this that allows Samantha to return to a safe and welcoming school environment,” said Linda Mangel, an ACLU attorney.

The ACLU letter was sent to Superintendent Gary Cohn on Friday.

It also asked for North Middle School students to be formally notified that Samantha’s Facebook page was involuntarily and improperly searched; for students to be trained on their rights and responsibilities in using online technology and their rights regarding school searches; and for a new school district policy outlining when school officials may access students’ online accounts.

It also called for Bryan Toutant, North Middle School’s vice principal, to be re-assigned to another school for the remainder of the school year.

The letter states that the request for Toutant’s transfer to another school was made because Samantha fears “he will seek to abuse his power and punish her for reporting his illegal search.”

The requested apology and announcement to the North Middle School students that Samantha did not willingly disclose the contents of her Facebook page were made in an effort “to dispel the idea that Samantha is to blame,” Mangel said.

One North student was suspended for a photo taken on school grounds during school hours.

Samantha is “being called a snitch, a tattletale,” Mangel said. “She’s being ostracized. She’s afraid.”

If school staff were concerned about cyber-bullying, they could have asked the alleged victim to show the vice principal what was online that upset her, Mangel said.

Jeff Russell, school board president, said earlier this week that he would talk with Cohn to see if there’s a need to change any school district policies.

On Friday afternoon, Mary Waggoner, school district spokeswoman, said neither she nor Cohn had seen a copy of the letter.

“If something was done that was inappropriate, we would always apologize,” she said.

A report on the North Middle School incident is expected next week, she said. Any decision on whether disciplinary action will be taken against staff will occur after the superintendent gets a chance to review the report, Waggoner said.

Waggoner said that Toutant has not been at North Middle School this past week because he was involved in the investigation of the Facebook incident.

“When we’re doing a review, we separate the parties involved so there’s no possibility of coercion,” she said. “He’ll be back to work on Monday.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com

More in Local News

It’s hard to find a parking spot at Wallace Falls State Park

There’s a study under way on how to tackle that issue and others.

At long last, a church of his own

After years of filling in elsewhere, Hallack Greider is the new pastor at Maplewood Presbyterian.

Judge: Lawmakers’ emails, texts subject to public disclosure

News organizations had sued to challenge the Legislature’s claim that members were exempt.

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s top images by staff photographers and… Continue reading

Outgoing councilwoman honored by Marysville Fire District

The Marysville Fire District in December honored outgoing City Councilwoman Donna Wright… Continue reading

Officials rule train-pedestrian death an accident

The 37-year-old man was trying to move off the tracks when the train hit him, police say.

Ex-Monroe cop re-arrested after losing sex crime case appeal

He was sentenced to 14 months in prison but was free while trying to get his conviction overturned.

Everett district relents on eminent domain moving expenses

Homeowners near Bothell still must be out by April to make way for a planned new high school.

Number of flu-related deaths in county continues to grow

Statewide, 86 people have died from the flu, most of whom were 65 or older.

Most Read