WATERLOO — A Waterloo Community School District science teacher who posted a threatening comment on social media about teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg’s Iowa City visit has been placed on administrative leave.
The teacher wasn’t named by the school district, but a Facebook post purportedly written by Waterloo’s West High teacher Matt Baish was being widely shared.
In a screenshot of the post, Baish commented, “Dont have my sniper rifle” in response to a post about today’s appearance in Iowa City by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.
“We were made aware of the concerning content yesterday morning and the investigation commenced at that point,” Waterloo schools spokeswoman Tara Thomas said earlier today. “Administrative leave was enacted once things were confirmed, so to speak. The staff member has not been back in the classroom since we were made aware of the content.”
Thunberg is appearing during a student-led climate strike demonstration in Iowa City.
According to West High’s website, Baish is a science teacher there. He also has been the Waterloo Education Association’s chief negotiator in contract talks since at least 2015.
After district officials learned about the Facebook post, a message was sent to West High staff and families about the situation. It said:
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“We wanted to make you aware of a social media situation involving one of our employees. The nature of the content shared rose to the level of putting this employee on administrative leave pending an investigation. We appreciate your patience as we sort through the details and thank you for respecting the process.”
Thomas didn’t have a timeline for the investigation.
“Once we have a definitive conclusion, based on what we are legally allowed to share, we will be happy to pass that on publicly,” she said. She declined to comment yet “on the punitive nature” of any outcome from the investigation.
Waterloo Schools’ social media policies warn staff to “think twice before posting” and advise not to post or approve comments that include “threats of physical or bodily harm.” Policies also lay out possible consequences of not following the district’s rules.
According employee policy number 418.0 on the district’s website: “Failure to exercise good judgment in on-line conduct can lead to discipline up to and including suspension and dismissal from employment. When inappropriate use of electronic contacts is suspected, administrators will immediately investigate. Misconduct that rises to the level of criminal activity will be reported to law enforcement. Misconduct that violates professional ethics will be reported to the Board of Educational Examiners.”