JEFFERSON — The School District of Jefferson is investigating a tweet relating to the outcome of the presidential election by high school principal Steve Dinkel.
Dinkel has been placed on temporary administrative leave as the probe into the Twitter post is under way.
“The district has received numerous inquiries and complaints about the posting from concerned parents and other district constituents,” Superintendent Mark Rollefson stated in a press release Thursday morning. “The district respects these concerns. The district also expects that district leaders will conduct themselves in a manner that gives the public we serve confidence in the district’s professionalism and assures all students that they will be treated fairly regardless of their political beliefs or expression.”
However, he added, the district also is ethically obligated to gather and review all of the facts related to this situation before drawing conclusions or making any decisions.
“For this reason, Mr. Dinkel will be on temporary administrative leave so that our investigation can be completed more promptly and in optimal investigatory conditions.”
Rollefson said he will provide an update in the coming weeks.
The meme apparently posted by Dinkel Nov. 7 was accompanied by a comment, “Time to take the trash out! Hope over fear, Truth over lies wins.”
This was paired with a picture of President-Elect Joe Biden doing a choke hold on President Donald Trump, with the caption, “Who’s ‘Sleepy’ now b---h?”
“Sleepy, of course, refers to Trump’s nickname for Biden, “Sleepy Joe.”
The tweet rankled a lot of community members, among them a group of students who wanted to park their trucks with full-size Trump flags in the school parking lot.
School policy currently bans political signs, T-shirts, hats, etc. on school grounds, including the parking lot, whatever a person’s political persuasion. So the students parked their vehicles on the street just east of the high school property, with the array of Trump flags in clear view.
By mid-afternoon, the trucks remained parked on the same street, but the Trump flags had been taken down.
The flags themselves were seen by some community members as a threat, as noted by Kat Lopez, who posted a photo of the parked vehicles on the school’s Facebook page, asking, “What will your administration be doing to make sure all students of color feel safe at their school after this incident at the high school this morning?”
Many community members, however, said they felt the intimidation went the other way, as with the person who shared a screenshot of Dinkel’s purported tweet alongside a photo of the vehicles with the Trump flags.
This community member asked, “So our principal can do this (arrow to purported Dinkel tweet) But his students can’t do this?? (arrow at photo of vehicles with flags) Only at Jefferson Highschool (sic).
By late afternoon, the post with the juxtaposed tweet and picture had circulated throughout the community, to mixed reaction.
An unnamed group opposing the tweet has slated a demonstration at the high school from 1 to 3 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13.
“This is a peaceful demonstration to demand accountability from the SDOJ in regards to Mr. Dinkel’s unprofessional social media post,” it stated in an email.
While there are extensive policies regarding official school district communications and social media accounts, the Daily Union is unaware of any such policy that would regulate what employees post on a personal social media account.