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DougCo teacher on leave after online comments about viral protest

DougCo history teacher Michelle Grissom is on leave after an online uproar over social media posts attributed to her in the wake of an incident between schoolkids from Covington Catholic High School, in Kentucky, and a Native American activist.

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. — A Douglas County School District history teacher and union leader is on leave after an online uproar over social media posts attributed to her in the wake of the incident between Catholic schoolkids and a Native American activist in Washington, D.C.

Images of Twitter posts from a now-deleted account, attributed to Mountain Ridge Middle School teacher Michelle Grissom, incorrectly identify the student in the now-infamous standoff last Friday, and call that misidentified student a member of the ‘Hitler Youth.’

The actual Covington Catholic High School student involved in the faceoff, Nick Sandmann, has since been identified and granted an interview to NBC News.

The student identified in the posts attributed to Grissom was not in Washington at the time, according to his family.

DougCo Schools spokeswoman Paula Hans would not comment on the situation but released a statement provided to Mountain Ridge families.

“Michelle Grissom is currently on leave,” principal Shannon Clarke told parents in a Wednesday e-mail. “Please understand that I am unable to share specific details, as this is a personnel matter.”

Clarke additionally indicated Grissom was not in the classroom Wednesday.

One day earlier, Clarke acknowledged the school was informed of the situation.

“I have been made aware of comments on social media that involve a member of the MRMS community,” Clarke told parents Monday. “We are addressing this situation, as appropriate.”

Multiple attempts to reach Grissom by phone and email Tuesday and Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Grissom is a member of the executive board of the Douglas County Federation, the teachers union representing DougCo educators. Kallie Leyba, president of the Douglas County Federation, declined to comment on the online comments.

When asked, Leyba said the union’s executive board members did not need to remain employed by the district, as the board also includes retirees.

A WordPress blog created Monday called for Grissom’s termination “for her role in the attempted doxxing and mob persecution of an underage boy.” Doxxing is the practice of researching and sharing private or identifiable information about someone online.

The blog’s anonymous creator has not responded to an online request for comment.

The WordPress blog archives screenshots of the tweets attributed to Grissom, and still-visible posts of a man who identified himself as the falsely-maligned student’s father.

Dr. John Jackson told 9NEWS on Tuesday that he is the father of 17-year-old Jay Jackson, who was wrongly identified in the posts which referred to him as “Hitler Youth.”

Jackson said his only goal in drawing attention to the posts online was to have them removed.

“My intention was never for her to lose her job,” Jackson said. “It was only after multiple attempts to get her to remove the post did I feel it necessary to include her school and school district in the discussion in an attempt to get her to take down her post."

Jackson told 9NEWS their family feared that the posts misidentifying his son as the student at the center of the now-viral video could have lasting repercussions.

“It wasn’t my son, he wasn’t even in D.C.,” Jackson said. “He was very shaken and upset. He feared that his future could be negatively impacted by having his name and picture associated with Hitler and the events in D.C.”

Jackson said his family is not interested in talking with Grissom but would like to hear from DougCo Schools.

“We were shocked and disappointed when nobody from the school district reached out to us,” Jackson said. “We feel like this is a serious offense and would like at least some form of acknowledgment and apology.”

The Jackson family already has an offer of legal representation from a Colorado-based attorney who was a key player in a recent, high-profile case.

Attorney Nicolle Martin represented Masterpiece Cake baker Jack Phillips, whose case drew national attention when it went to the Supreme Court in 2018. Phillips had refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

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Martin told 9NEWS she would be willing to file a federal lawsuit on behalf of the Jackson family. Martin said Tuesday evening she had not yet spoken with the family.

Upon learning Grissom was placed on leave, Jackson said he appreciated the district’s actions.

“I am thankful that she will not be around children until this situation is fully evaluated,” Jackson said.

UPDATE: Grissom resigned from her role on the union board Thursday.

Editor's Note: Due to a reporter error, an original version of this story incorrectly said parents were notified on Tuesday instead of Monday. 

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