The principal of Camas High School has apologized after several community members pushed back on a Facebook post she made regarding the death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant.
“Not gonna lie. Seems to me that karma caught up with a rapist today,” Liza Sejkora, principal of Camas High, wrote on her personal Facebook page hours after news broke that Bryant had been killed in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26.
The initial response to Sejkora’s post from her own Facebook contacts was mostly negative.
“You’re unbelievable,” one man commented.
“I wonder what karma his 13-year-old daughter had coming or the other … people,” another commenter wrote.
“Truth,” someone wrote under that comment. “Horrible post about this tragedy.”
The Jan. 26 crash in Calabasas, California, claimed the lives of Bryant, 41, a retired Los Angeles Lakers basketball player and one of the National Basketball Association’s most revered players, as well as his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna “Gigi” Bryant; the family of former University of Oregon baseball player J.J. Altobelli: Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter, Alyssa; helicopter pilot Ara Zobayan; Christina Mauser, a defensive specialist for Gigi Bryant’s basketball team and the mother of three young children; and Sarah and Payton Chester, a mother and daughter who had ties to Kobe Bryant’s Team Mamba girls basketball team.
Sejkora’s “karma” comment alludes to a 2003 sexual assault case in which a 19-year-old woman accused Kobe Bryant of raping her in his Colorado hotel room. Bryant, who was a married father of one at the time, admitted to having sex with the woman but claimed the act was consensual. Bryant’s accuser’s identity was leaked and she received hate mail and death threats. After she refused to testify, the case was dropped and Bryant settled with the woman out of court, apologizing to his accuser and family but never admitting to the sexual assault.
In recent years, Bryant seemed to be thriving in his new role as the father of four young girls, author of children’s books, coach of his daughter’s basketball team and avid supporter of women’s athletics.
His death — and the fact that his second-oldest daughter was also killed in the crash — left people in mourning throughout the world.
The news that Gigi Bryant and two other young teen girls had also been killed in the crash occurred after the Camas High principal posted her comment on Facebook.
Sejkora soon deleted her initial post and wrote on her personal page: “I just deleted a post. It was deleted because the comments missed my intent. You are free to judge me for the post just as I am free to judge the person the post was about. Also — if you are shocked I speak my mind on my page, I am honestly surprised.”
Neither post was public, but members of the Camas community, including parents and students, saw the initial “karma caught up with a rapist” comment after it was shared on social media. A man who wished to remain anonymous sent a screenshot of the post to the Post-Record and said he had spoken to Camas High teachers who felt their principal’s comment was highly inappropriate.
Several people voiced their complaints to the Camas School District (CSD).
“We’re still trying to gather all the information,” said CSD Communications Director Doreen McKercher on Monday. “We’ve had a handful of complaints, from parents and at least one former student and a current student. It is something that is going around.”
Sejkora referred the Post-Record to McKercher when asked for comment on her post.
“Any time a concern is raised we investigate following district policy and seek to move forward in a positive way that addresses the concern,” McKercher, speaking for the district, said Monday.
Sejkora, who came to Camas from the Scottsdale Unified School District in Arizona, began her position as the high school’s principal at the start of the 2017-18 school year. The school district announced Sejkora would replace outgoing Camas High Principal Steve Marshall in May 2017.
On Monday, after being contacted by the Post-Record and speaking to district leaders, Sejkora sent the following to Camas High staff and families:
“You may be aware that a copy of a social media post I made on my personal Facebook page is circulating digitally in our community. Today, I apologized to my staff, and now I apologize to you,” Sejkora wrote. “… After news broke (about) Kobe Bryant’s death, I made a comment to my private social media, which was a personal, visceral reaction. I want to apologize for suggesting that a person’s death is deserved. It was inappropriate and tasteless. Further, I apologize for the disruption it caused to our learning environment today.”
“In education, we remind students to think before they post online, especially when feelings are inflamed. We also teach our students about context. My emotions and past experiences got the best of me in that moment. We also teach our students that what we share online has permanency,” Sejkora continued. “While what I wrote was posted on a private Facebook account to people who are my friends and was quickly removed, I acknowledge that private does not always mean private. I love being principal at Camas High School. We have tremendous students, staff and community. I’ve learned an important lesson, and I hope that I can earn your trust back.”
Camas School District Superintendent Jeff Snell added that the school district takes its responsibility of leading the community seriously.
“We are tasked with creating conditions for learning and managing an environment that is safe and supportive,” Snell said. “As school district staff we strive to model a high standard for students. This situation did not meet that standard. We do appreciate (Sejkora’s) acknowledgment and will work to support her in rebuilding trust with the community she serves.”