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SCOTUS deciding whether to hear teacher firing case

January 1, 2007
The Supreme Court of the United States has asked for more information before deciding whether to accept a case involving a former Bloomington elementary school teacher fired over comments she made about the Iraq war during class.

Deborah A. Mayer, who now teaches at an elementary school in Florida, lost her job after making comments to elementary students in early 2003 - just prior to the war's beginning - that she would "honk for peace" when passing war protests. Some parents later complained about her comments, and the Monroe County Community School Corp. ultimately fired her.

She lost her claims before U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker in Indianapolis and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, which ruled in favor of the school district in January and dismissed the claim.

Today marks the due day for briefs from the school district, which initially passed on the opportunity to respond to Mayer's petition.

If the nation's highest court accepts the case, this would be the first briefing before the SCOTUS that Lebanon attorney Michael L. Schultz, with Parr Richey O'Bremskey & Morton, would have. He is asking the court to consider whether the free speech clause of the First Amendment limits a public school board's power to punish a teacher's instructional speech, when that speech is part and parcel of the approved curriculum and involves a matter of great public concern

Circuit courts are split on the issue, Schultz said, including the 7th Circuit that established in its ruling that teachers don't have any protection. Others have ruled that there's no unfettered right to restrict teacher speech on important public matters, as well as that schools have a right to censor certain speech and publications.
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