An anti-Trump meme posted to the Garfield Elementary School Facebook page raised some eyebrows and sparked questions Saturday night, Dec. 8.
Shared at 9:14 p.m., the post included a photo of President Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton during a 2016 presidential debate and text stating, "People love to hate Hillary, but she called Trump a Russian puppet right to his stupid (expletive) face. I'll always respect her for that."
The post remained live for about 25 minutes before it was apparently taken down. Several people commented, questioning the appropriateness of the meme, whether it was the result of a hack, or whether someone mistakenly posted the photo to the school's page thinking it was their own profile.
Brainerd Public Schools Superintendent Laine Larson was not yet aware of the social media post when the Dispatch called her for comment Sunday morning. Larson said she called Garfield Elementary School Principal Jodi Kennedy for more information. According to Kennedy, two employees have administrative access to the page, and both denied posting the meme. A search on Facebook Sunday morning showed the Garfield Elementary School page itself was no longer available.
"Whoever put it on, they put it up and took it down right away," Larson said during a phone interview. "So she (Kennedy) wasn't able to access it or anything at this point."
Larson said she immediately made calls to the district's technology team to launch an investigation into the post's origins.
"I want to reaffirm that what was on this post is absolutely in direct denial of what the school district believes," Larson said. "It's just so disappointing that this even came on our Facebook page and we take it very seriously and we will check into it immediately. This is just in total direct opposition to what we believe and support in our school district."
Larson said she was unsure of specifics concerning the district's internal social media policy and would review it, but she said each school is in charge of their own presence and handles posting to the accounts differently. She said the district's social media presence as a whole is managed through the technology and communications departments.
The anti-Trump meme was a shared post from a profile with the name Karen Smith. The profile states Smith lives in Sacramento, Calif. It appears to be the account of a real person, with public posts dating back to 2015 including personal photos. Shortly after Trump's inauguration, Smith began to post memes critical of the president publicly, meaning the posts are available to view by anyone, not only her Facebook friends. The posts are prolific and dominate Smith's profile, with multiple critical posts about Trump posted daily.
The post shared by Garfield Elementary School appeared on Smith's profile Friday, Dec. 7. As of 11 a.m. Sunday, the post had 217 shares directly from Smith, although the meme itself originated from the Facebook page for The Other 98%. The group posted the meme, which includes a watermark of the organization's logo, July 22. That post has 25,548 shares and more than 57,000 reactions. The Other 98% is "a nonprofit organization and a grassroots network of concerned people that shines a light on economic injustice, undue corporate influence and threats to democracy," according to the group's website.
This is the second time since the 45th president took office the district has found itself entangled in Trump-related controversy. In May 2017, the district came under fire for a quote printed in the Brainerd High School yearbook in response to a question asking students how they felt about Trump. One girl's response was, "I would like to behead him. I do not like him."
The controversy received national attention, including a tweet mention from actor Scott Baio. The girl to which the quote was attributed claimed she was misquoted and misled about how her words would be used, but that didn't stop the fallout, including an impromptu protest, the implementation of new yearbook quoting policies and the removal of art teacher Joe Wagner from the yearbook adviser position.