Confusion over E. Idaho basketball coach’s status

POCATELLO, Idaho — A southeastern Idaho girls basketball coach fired over a photograph posted on her Facebook page showing her fiance touching her bikini-clad chest has been reinstated as a substitute teacher.

But the attorney for Laraine Cook said it’s unclear in letters received from Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25 officials if she’ll also return as the basketball coach at Pocatello High School.

Gary Cooper tells the Idaho State Journal in a story on Saturday that the letter says officials will contact Cook later about her employment as the coach for the 2014-15 season.

Cook was dismissed in October after the school district learned that the photograph showed her fiance, the school’s football coach, touching her clothed chest while they were vacationing in eastern Oregon. The photo was online for about two days before being removed.

Cook challenged the dismissal, and the three-member school district grievance panel was created as a part of that challenge. The panel on Dec. 23 concluded the firing should be rescinded, that Cook should be reinstated as a substitute teacher and she should be hired as the basketball coach next year.

Additionally, the panel — made up of former Democratic state legislators James Ruchti and Diane Bilyeu of Pocatello and Rupert attorney Robyn Brody — recommended that the period spanning Cook’s dismissal and the panel’s Dec. 23 decision should be considered a suspension without pay.

The grievance panel also recommended that the school district “adopt a social media policy to avoid confusion about standards of conduct and instruct employees about the standard to make sure it is understood.”

District officials on Tuesday adopted resolutions in the wake of the panel’s recommendations, but Cooper said they altered language concerning Cook’s return to coaching.

“The panel wrote, ‘to hire Ms. Cook as the head basketball coach for the 2014-15 season,’” Cooper said. “The district is modifying that, saying we will make an offer of employment at a future date. Why are they tinkering with the language?”

District officials didn’t return a call from The Associated Press on Saturday.

Cook’s fiance, Pocatello High head football coach Tom Harrison, is an Idaho High School Football Hall of Fame coach and hasn’t been removed from his role for appearing in the photo, though he has said he was reprimanded by school officials.

The photo was taken during a family reunion in July near Joseph, Ore.

It shows Harrison and Cook in an embrace, with one of Harrison’s hands on Cook’s chest.

Cook has said she removed the image shortly after it was called into question by the school’s athletic director.

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Information from: Idaho State Journal, http://www.journalnet.com

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