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Pickering v. Bd. of Educ.

Supreme Court of the United States

March 27, 1968, Argued ; June 3, 1968, Decided

No. 510


 [*564]   [***815]   [**1732]  MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

Appellant Marvin L. Pickering, a teacher in Township High School District 205, Will County, Illinois,  [****4]  was dismissed from his position by the appellee Board of Education for sending a letter to a local newspaper in connection with  [**1733]  a recently proposed tax increase that was critical of the way in which the Board and the district superintendent of schools had handled past proposals to raise new revenue for the schools.  Appellant's dismissal resulted from a determination by the Board, after a full hearing, that the publication of the letter was "detrimental to the efficient operation and administration of the schools of the district" and hence, under the relevant  [*565]  Illinois statute, Ill. Rev. Stat., c. 122, § 10-22.4 (1963), that "interests of the school require[d] [his dismissal]."

 Appellant's claim that his writing of the letter was protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments was rejected. Appellant then sought review of the Board's action in the Circuit Court of Will County, which affirmed his dismissal on the ground that the determination that appellant's letter was detrimental to the interests of the school system was supported by substantial evidence and that the interests of the schools overrode appellant's First Amendment rights.  On appeal, the Supreme [****5]  Court of Illinois, two Justices dissenting, affirmed the judgment of the Circuit Court. 36 Ill. 2d 568, 225 N. E. 2d 1 (1967). We noted probable jurisdiction of appellant's claim that the Illinois statute permitting his dismissal on the facts of this case was unconstitutional as applied under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. 1  389 U.S. 925 (1967). For the reasons detailed below we agree that appellant's rights to freedom of speech were violated and we reverse.

In February of 1961 the appellee Board of Education asked the voters of the school [****6]  district to approve a bond issue to raise $ 4,875,000 to erect two new schools. The proposal was defeated. Then, in December of 1961, the Board submitted another bond proposal to the voters which called for the raising of $ 5,500,000 to build two new schools. This second proposal passed and the schools were built with the money raised by the bond  [*566]  sales. In May of 1964 a proposed increase in the tax rate to be used for educational purposes was submitted to the voters by  [***816]  the Board and was defeated. Finally, on September 19, 1964, a second proposal to increase the tax rate was submitted by the Board and was likewise defeated. It was in connection with this last proposal of the School Board that appellant wrote the letter to the editor (which we reproduce in an Appendix to this opinion) that resulted in his dismissal.

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391 U.S. 563 *; 88 S. Ct. 1731 **; 20 L. Ed. 2d 811 ***; 1968 U.S. LEXIS 1471 ****; 1 I.E.R. Cas. (BNA) 8



Disposition:  36 Ill. 2d 568, 225 N. E. 2d 1, reversed and remanded.


teachers, athletic, voters, lunches, knowingly, salaries, recklessly, defeated, detrimental, campaign, reckless

Constitutional Law, Fundamental Freedoms, Freedom of Speech, Public Employees, Education Law, Discipline & Dismissal, Defenses, Retaliation, Faculty & Staff, General Overview, Defamation, Public Figures, Torts, Public Figures, Voluntary Public Figures, Scope, Actual Malice