Teacher Employment, Evaluation and Dismissal

Originally appeared in the CAS Weekly Newsletter.
Written by attorney Thomas B. Mooney.

Dear Legal Mailbag:

One of the teachers in my building is quite involved in political affairs and he regularly posts commentary on his blog. This week, however, I think that he went too far. Posting about the results of the recent election, he offered the observation that the mayor and entire political establishment in my town should be very worried because their days in control of town affairs are numbered. That was bad enough, but then he went on to recount a number of incidents in which the mayor had made mistakes and embarrassed himself. Unfortunately, I was not alone in my concern; the mayor’s assistant called me up to ask what I was going to do about this “disloyalty” by a town employee. I told him that it’s a free country and that the teacher has a right to express himself. The response from the mayor’s assistant, however, was concerning. He just responded curtly that he would report back to the mayor on where I stand.

I do believe that teachers do have free speech rights but, given the conversation with the mayor’s assistant, I thought that I should do something. I called the teacher down to the office and asked him in my most charming voice if he ever considered toning it down. I explained that the mayor tries hard and has a lot of influence. Maybe it would be better for everyone, I wondered aloud with him, if he would stop criticizing the mayor. The teacher was polite but non-committal. In any event, I was shocked to read in his next blog post his version of our meeting. There, he described how I had sought to “stifle” his “free speech,” and he declared that he would never be silenced.

Now I am mad. Can I discipline the teacher for publicizing a private meeting in which I simply counseled him that his obnoxious posts may not be worth the trouble they cause?

Thank you,
Righteously Indignant


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Originally appeared in the CAS Weekly Newsletter.
Written by attorney Thomas B. Mooney.

Dear Legal Mailbag:

I have been fortunate to be the principal in a school district that provides building substitutes and I have often been able simply to assign one of my two building subs to cover for an absent teacher without having to resort to the sub list. For example, early this year, one of my veteran teachers took seriously ill and, last October, I assigned a building sub to that class to cover for the teacher. Happily, the teacher is regaining his health, and he will return to work next fall. Given these circumstances, the building sub will continue covering the class until the end of the year.

My question has to do with the building sub. Fortunately, he has his teaching certification, and he has done a great job covering the class this year. Unfortunately, the powers that be have told me that the district can’t afford building subs next year and so the sub is out of a job. We do have a vacancy for next year because another teacher has resigned for retirement purposes effective at the end of the year; and, the sub has asked me for a recommendation as part of his application for the position. I think he is great, but I don’t want to exercise favoritism in the hiring process. Rather, in this competitive environment, I want the district to find the best candidate for the vacancy.

Do you think that I can gracefully decline this request?

Thank you,
Principally Polite


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