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Mattoon school employee resigns after social media post investigation
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Mattoon school employee resigns after social media post investigation


MATTOON — An employee with the Mattoon school district has resigned after an investigation of racist comments on social media, the district announced Monday.

The district concluded its investigation into the matter on Monday and accepted the employee's resignation, effectively immediately, a news release circulated by the district.

"The district is committed to creating a culture of inclusivity, grounded in the ability to listen with the intent to understand," the release said.

The school district also issued a statement on Friday, saying that was when officials first learned about the social media posts. It said the district immediately contacted its attorney and started the investigation.

"We encourage communication, consideration of feelings and valuing differences, all of which result in an environment of belonging and support," the statement said. "We appreciate the outreach from our community and their sense of responsibility to alert us to this concern."

Monday's release didn't identify the employee or that person's position and district officials weren't available to provide more information.

Public social media posts, widely disseminated in recent days, showed the post on the personal Facebook account of Briana Fisher Cisna, who was a paraprofessional with the district.

The disseminated posts indicated that Cisna used a racial slur while responding to a post by Dennis Drake, owner of Drake Excavating & Construction in Charleston.

Drake used the same slur while referring to looting and rioting, also on a public Facebook page. It was an apparent reference to violence that was part of the response to the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis.

The post used characters in place of some letters for the slur but Drake also wrote "if I could think of a more insulting word than N I'd be using it."

The slur was spelled out in Cisna's message and she said she had her students "look up" the word and "write it down and read it out loud to me."

Attempts to contact Cisna and Drake on Monday weren't successful.

Other local officials have also recently made statements in regard to Floyd's death and the reaction to it.

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Charleston Mayor Brandon Combs issued a statement on Friday, saying he was made aware of "some hateful commentary online."

Combs called such comments "contemptible" and "not worthy of debate"and said hatred and injustice need to be called out when they occur.

"I call upon all of us to put our best efforts and energy into moving forward together to be the Charleston we want," he said. "Positive change starts at home."

Also, Eastern Illinois University President David Glassman issued a statement a week after Floyd's May 25 death, saying events that led up to demonstrations "have provoked pain, heartbreak and anger."

He said it was clear that Minneapolis police officers "blatantly ignored the fundamental values of morality" and he felt "compelled to strongly denounce all forms of bigotry, racism, needless violence and acts of intolerance."

"At Eastern Illinois University, we are unwaveringly committed to the highest ideas of civility, equality, inclusion, understanding and respect for all," Glassman said.

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Dave Fopay is a reporter for the JG-TC who covers Coles County, the local court system, Charleston schools and more.

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