The Washougal School District is setting the record straight after community members blamed the district for a profane comment posted to Instagram.
The snafu started in a comment chain posted to an Instagram story recently posted by Washougal resident Kevin Credelle.
In the story, Credelle stated the school district had an employee test positive for COVID-19 and “seem to be keeping this information under wraps.”
“Way to keep your community informed and safe,” Credelle added.
Under the comment, an account called “wash ougal.k12.schooldistrict” replied with a profanity-laced comment directly toward Credelle.
The reply caught the attention of community members, who circulated the post around social media and expressed their objections to district leaders.
The catch? The Washougal School District not only did not create the profane message, said Les Brown, the district’s director of communications and technology, the school district doesn’t even have an Instagram account.
“I contacted the school district, and they said there’s no connection with this account and the district, even though the account is called ‘washougal.k12.schooldistrict,'” Washougal resident Annice Kessler Attoe said. “It’s just such a tough time for families. We’re trying to stay safe and not go crazy with our kids at home. Seeing what I thought was the (district’s) “to the lack of information to families about someone testing positive for COVID was unbelievably inappropriate. I guess it just highlights how vulnerable social media is for communication.”
Credelle said he was told by “someone within the district that it was their account.”
“(That was) before the district had a chance to respond, create a new Instagram account and concoct whatever story they wanted,” he said.
The owner of the “K12” account did not respond to the Post-Record’s request for comment.
“We were disappointed to see someone respond like that to a comment on social media, especially when using our name and logo,” Brown said. “We were concerned about the confusion it caused. (The account doesn’t) appear to be very active, but it is having some negative interactions with patrons, which obviously we don’t condone.”
Two profiles prominently appear when “Washougal School District” is typed into the Instagram search bar: “washougal.k12.schooldistrict” and “washougal_sd.”
School district leaders told the Post-Record they do not know who created the “K12” account.
“The second account is the one the district will start using,” Brown said. “The first one is the fake account. It appears to have existed for several years, but has not been active or posting much content. A number of people found it and started following it, which in turn attracted others to do so. The district is not active on Instagram, but it’s something we’re working to create and curate content for.”
The district reported the “K12” account to Instagram in an effort to have it removed, but had not received a reply from the company as of Feb. 9. The account, which has posted twice, most recently on Dec. 10, 2020, was still active as of Feb. 12.
“There were several patrons who reached out to express surprise about the tone of the response, and we appreciate them letting us know about it,” Brown said. “The swift reporting of the response let us initiate the copyright infringement process with Instagram, which hopefully will result in the account being taken down.”
Brown said two school district staff members tested positive for COVID-19 in early February, but said the district is not attempting to hide the information from anybody.
Credelle said he believes the “district’s inability to properly inform and contact people that might be affected by that positive test result” put him and others at risk.
“Since the district has circled their wagons, I do not see a point in continuing to discuss this. They will deny and deny,” Credelle said. “They failed in my eyes. At least one person from the district has admitted that their system for informing and contact tracing only works if their staff (members) actually follow through and inform their bubbles of potential exposures and quarantine appropriately. This was not done in my case, so my daughter was dropped off with someone who should have been quarantining and should have informed me of the possible exposure.”
Brown said the Clark County Health Department stopped posting updates about schools’ positive cases in January and that the school district has “taken over the responsibility to keep patrons informed.”
“In order to help students, their families and staff, we have a dashboard of cases (on our website that shows) where the person who has a confirmed case was on campus, similar to other districts,” Brown said. “We also email out information each time a confirmed case has been on site to all staff and parent/guardian contacts at the site where the case took place.”