Community backing aids reinstatement of teacher

By Kristina Jackson

A Riley County High School teacher was reinstated to his classroom position Tuesday night.

In a unanimous vote, the Riley County USD 378 Board of Education lifted a suspension imposed against Mark Laurie, a business and computers teacher at the high school. Around 300 people came to speak in favor of Laurie’s reinstatement, causing the meeting to be moved to the high school gym.

Laurie was suspended with pay for about two weeks prior to the meeting.

Neither district officials nor Laurie had much to say Wednesday morning about the basis for either the suspension or reinstatement. But Nick Seaton, who helped draft the resolution to reinstate Laurie, said Laurie received a call from an administrator two weeks before the start of the school year. The administrator told him that a member of the community had complained about videos that Laurie’s video production class had uploaded to YouTube more than a year ago. The person said the videos featured what was characterized as offensive behavior, such as students dancing suggestively behind another student and hitting each other over the head with empty pop bottles.

According to Seaton, Laurie agreed to take down the videos, but when he arrived for the first day of school, all of his computers were gone.

School board president Kerry Thurlow said the board launched an investigation after the complaint was brought to board members’ attention, and Laurie was suspended in order to allow time for the investigation to take place.

“Certain allegations have to be taken seriously,” Thurlow said. “So that’s why the investigation took place.”

Seaton said the reinstatement resolution was signed by 190 members of the community. Thurlow said the support gave the board more perspective into the situation, which contributed to the decision to lift the suspension.

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