Free Speech in the classroom
Opinions by US Circuit Courts of Appeal
A number of U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal have considered challenges from teachers contending that their respective employers had curtailed their constitutional right to free speech.
1. Mayer v. Monroe County Community School Corporation, 474 F.3d 477
In this 42 USC 1983 lawsuit, a teacher alleged that she was dismissed from her position because of her statement opposing the United State’s military involvement in Iraq in a social studies class. The Circuit Court said that the First Amendment does not entitle primary and secondary teachers to cover topics, or advocate viewpoints, that depart from the curriculum adopted by the school system while teaching in a classroom setting.
2. Deschenie v. Bd. of Educ. of Cent. Consol. Sch. Dist. No. 22, 473 F.3d 1271
Here the Circuit Court ruled that a former teacher did not suffer unlawful retaliation for engaging in speech protected by the First Amendment after finding that the teacher’s speech, which concerned bilingual education, was not causally related to the adverse employment actions taken by the school board.
3. Casey v. W. Las Vegas Independent School District, 473 F.3d 1323
The school district and officials were sued for allegedly demoting and ultimately terminating a teacher for reasons that the teacher claimed constituted unlawful retaliation for her exercising her First Amendment rights. The court dismissed the appeal, commenting that the teacher failed to show that her statements concerning “the Head Start program” and miscellaneous violations of state or federal law were made in her capacity as a citizen and not pursuant to her “official duties.”