Camas principal resigns amid backlash over Kobe Bryant ‘karma’ comment

Camas High leader Liza Sejkora, who apologized for her controversial Facebook post, faced online threats and a petition calling for her dismissal

Camas High School Principal Liza Sejkora (Photo courtesy of Camas School District)

A Facebook post made by Camas High School Principal Liza Sejkora hours after news broke that basketball legend Kobe Bryant had been killed in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26.

The Camas principal facing public backlash for a controversial Facebook post she made in January regarding the death of basketball star Kobe Bryant has resigned. 

Camas School District Superintendent Jeff Snell said today he has accepted Liza Sejkora’s resignation. 

“This has been a tumultuous week,” Snell stated in a press release delivered to the media the start of the district’s 4:45 p.m. press conference. “However, I’ve been impressed with the level of professionalism our staff members have displayed as well as the caring and compassion from our families.” 

Sejkora, who came to Camas from Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2017 to lead the local high school, stated in the press release that she was resigning because she felt Camas High’s “students and staff deserve to have a learning environment free of disruptions.” 

The controversy started last weekend, when Camas community members, including current and former Camas High School students, began sharing a screenshot of Sejkora’s private Facebook site, showing a post in which the principal had written: “Not gonna lie. Seems to me that karma caught up with a rapist today,” and added a shrugging emoji in the hours after news broke that Bryant, 41, a retired Los Angeles Lakers star and father of four young girls, had died along with eight others in a southern California helicopter crash on Jan. 26.

After news broke that Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, along with two other teen girls and several parents had also been killed in the crash, Sejkora removed her initial post and wrote on her 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.” 

Contacted by the Post-Record Monday for comment on the post, Sejkora referred the newspaper to the district’s director of communications, Doreen McKercher, who confirmed the Facebook post was real and said district officials had heard from community members upset by Sejkora’s statements about Bryant. 

By Monday evening, Sejkora had sent an apology to the Camas High community, stating: “… 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,” Sejkora added. “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.”

Media outlets across the nation picked the story up and hundreds of commenters — as well as more than 200 people who signed an online petition — were calling for Sejkora to be fired from her position at Camas High School. 

On Wednesday, more than 1,000 of the high school’s 2,124 students missed classes due to rumors of online threats being made against Sejkora and the school. District administrators placed Sejkora on administrative leave, citing safety concerns. Camas police and school district officials later said they had not found any viable online threats that would impact the safety of students or staff at Camas High. 

On Friday morning, a concerned parent reported two suspicious individuals entering the campus and district officials diverted school buses from the high school and placed the school on lockdown. By 10 a.m., the district reported that the individuals posed no threat and that the lockdown had been lifted. 

Later Friday, Snell gave a press conference at the district headquarters and took questions from local media outlets as well as the editor of the Camas High School’s Camasonian magazine, Lily Dozier, who thanked the superintendent for being a supportive presence on the high school campus this week and asked him how administrators would help Camas students feel safe and supported at school next week. 

“I think we need to continue to listen. This is a pretty major event in our lives, and so students and staff are going to need some care. So paying attention to each other and looking for an opportunity to reach out to each other — I think those are the most important things in moving forward,” Snell told Dozier. 

In response to a media question about safety measures next week at Camas High, Snell said the district has been monitoring social media and emails throughout the night to make sure they were aware of any potential threats going into the school day, and will continue to be “paying attention, listening to our students, listening to our parents” and will have additional staff on hand. 

“I know our students, they want a normal week. They’re looking forward to that,” Snell said. “We’re ready to kind of get back to normal. And I am, too.” 

Snell will continue to serve as the interim principal until the district can work out a more long-term plan and begin the process of hiring a new Camas High principal — something that could prove difficult in the middle of a school year, Snell said. 

“We want to talk with staff a little bit. Obviously this week our focus was on safety and our focus was on what was going to happen with Dr. Sejkora. Now that some of those things have been identified, we can move forward and can think about creating a plan. We have an amazing staff, so we’ll try to work from within,” he said. “In the long-term, we’ll try to engage our community in (deciding) what we need in the next principal.” 

Snell said earlier in the week that Sejkora’s Facebook post did not meet the standards of what the district expects from its administrators and staff members. Going forward, Snell said Camas School District staff will continue to have training related to the intricacies of posting to social media sites. 

“The world continues to emerge around those fronts, so being thoughtful around what we do and how we say it is always something we can do and we can grow on,” Snell said.

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