Activist Greta Thunberg speaks during the strike for a “Town-Gown Climate Accord” hosted by the Iowa City Climate Strikers, Oct. 4, 2019.
Joseph Cress, Iowa City Press-Citizen
DES MOINES, Iowa – A Waterloo high school teacher is on administrative leave after he left a threatening Facebook comment on a news story about climate activist Greta Thunberg’s Iowa City visit Friday.
Matt Baish, a science teacher at Waterloo West High School, posted “Dont have my sniper rifle” Thursday on an article shared from Little Village Magazine about Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish girl who has been a leading voice of youth activism around climate change.
Baish’s comment, in addition to his own Facebook page, appears to have been deleted. But screenshots of his comments were posted on the Waterloo Community School District Facebook page.
The teachers and students at West received a message about Baish on Friday, saying that he was put on leave, according to an email statement by Waterloo Schools director of school and community relations Tara Thomas.
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“We are aware of a social media situation involving one of our employees,” the statement said. “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.”
Waterloo Police Lt. Kye Richter said law enforcement is also investigating the incident.
Thomas also shared the school district’s social media policy, which includes guidelines prohibiting content that “would be defined by a reasonable person as obscene, racist, or sexist,” “promotes illicit, illegal, or unethical activity” or “violates the district’s affirmative action and/or bullying and harassment policies.”
School district employees can face consequences including suspension or dismissal for not following online conduct guidelines, according to the document.
Thunberg joined more than 3,000 activists at a climate strike on Friday afternoon in Iowa City. Strikers demanded the University of Iowa and the city agree to a “Town-Gown Climate Accord,” which calls for both entities to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2030 and asks the university to cease burning coal at its power plant.
“We teenagers and children shouldn’t have to take the responsibility but right now the world leaders keep acting like children and someone needs to be the adult in the room,” Thunberg said in Iowa City. “The world is waking up. We are the change and change is coming whether they like it or not.”
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