UPDATE: Community debates Prosser SD staff’s actions
PROSSER, Wash. —
A day after the Prosser School District heard dozens of comments against staff members Peggy and Dale Brown, the local community continues its debate.
Peggy Brown is on administrative leave following a public post she made on Facebook about a ‘Day Without Immigrants.’
“This is not okay,” Ansley Gerhard of the Tri-Cities Young Democrats said to the school board Monday night. “Kids should not be able to go on Facebook, search their educators, and see things like this.”
Peggy’s husband, Dale Brown, is a bus driver for the district. He is also under scrutiny for parking his personal truck near Keene-Riverview Elementary. The truck displays signs criticizing Mormons, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and LGBTQ people.
In contrast to commenters at Monday’s meeting, dozens on KAPP-KVEW’s social media pages wrote their support of the Brown’s rights to free speech.
“While these people’s method of expressing their beliefs is not my method, they have as much right to those beliefs as those who protest any and all actions by our president…” Sharlyn Biangasso wrote on Facebook. “Grow up and get over it, you can’t have it both ways.”
“Last time I checked you are allowed to park your vehicle on public property. My free speech rights are the same as yours,” Leah VanRay wrote. “To keep yours, you have to support the rights of others. Whether you agree or disagree.”
However, several at the meeting expressed concern over what the Brown’s publically posted views could mean for kids falling under the criticized demographics.
“Freedom of speech is a big deal,” said one woman who did not give her name. “But if [Peggy Brown] hurts someone, it will be on you.”
KAPP-KVEW spoke to Peggy Brown by phone Tuesday. In response to such comments, Brown said she would never hurt a child.
“I have spent seven years on the job, and have never been a danger. I never expressed my political or Christian views with the kids, and I wouldn’t,” she said. “There are larger accusations of me trying to indoctrinate kids or cause them harm, which is ridiculous.”
Leader of the Islamic Center of Tri-Cities Imam Mohamed Elsehmawy was not so sure.
He attended Monday’s meeting, concerned about images of himself and local youth at the Islamic Center posted by the Brown’s online with the caption: ‘How to brainwash the youth for Allah.’
“This is my picture,” Elsehmawy said, pointing to a packet of printed images. “For almost one year on Facebook, [they were] attacking Islam and Muslims.”
Peggy Brown responded to Elsehmawy through KAPP-KVEW’s article, commenting:
“The Imam apparently does not like satire. This is not Egypt, however, in America we can poke fun at our President and anyone else, even Muhammad’s little friends,” she wrote. “Only Jesus can fix his problem, and as long as he continues spreading lies about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, he will be a topic for criticism.”
KAPP-KVEW reached out to the Prosser School District for a follow up about what the next steps might be in this discussion. The district said superintendent Dr. Ray Tocacher was out of the office for a job a fair and not immediately available for comment.