When an English teacher tweeted to President Trump that her Texas high school was filled with students in this country illegally and urged his help, she was fired (“Teacher Wins Appeal After Being Fired Over Immigrant Tweet,” The New York Times, Dec. 1). Her appeal to the state education commissioner resulted in her reinstatement.
Nevertheless, the Fort Worth Independent School District intends to fight the ruling, claiming that it was based on a technicality. I doubt it will prevail because in 1968 the U.S. Supreme Court held in Pickering v. Board of Education that statements by public school teachers about issues of public importance are protected speech. In my opinion, illegal immigration clearly meets that standard regardless of the Board members’ individual views on the matter.
The only way the district will prevail is if it can prove that the teacher spoke as part of her public duties. In Garcetti v. Ceballos, the high court ruled that statements by public employees pursuant to their employment have no First Amendment protection.,
Regardless of the outcome, it’s still risky for teachers to express themselves openly about matters of grave importance. That’s because freedom of speech does not exist in K-12 in the same way that it exists in higher education.
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