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Evans-Marshall v. Bd. of Educ. of the Tipp City Exempted Vill. Sch. Dist. - 624 F.3d 332 (6th Cir. 2010)

Rule:

If an employee establishes that her speech touches "matters of public concern," a balancing test determines whether the employee or the employer wins. The court balances the interests of the employee, as a citizen, in commenting upon matters of public concern against the interest of the state, as an employer, in promoting the efficiency of the public services it performs through its employees. 

 

Facts:

The Tipp City Board of Education hired Evans-Marshall to teach English and to supervise Tippecanoe High School's literary magazine, BirchBark. Her contract was not renewed following a dispute over the books used for assignments in her high school English classes. Evans-Marshall sued defendants, Board of Education of the Tipp City Exempted Village School District, a principal, and the district superintendent, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, under 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 for alleged violations of the teacher's First Amendment rights. Evans-Marshall claimed that the school board refused to renew her contract because of her curricular and pedagogical choices.

Issue:

Did teacher Evans-Marshall’s First Amendment right to free speech extend to in-class curricular speech made "pursuant to" official duties of teachers in primary and secondary schools? 

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

Affirming, the United States Court of Appeals held that the right of free speech did not extend to the in-class curricular speech of teachers in primary and secondary schools made pursuant to their official duties. The Court explained that a First Amendment claimant must satisfy each of these requirements: the "matter of public concern" requirement, the "balancing" requirement, and the "pursuant to" requirement. Evans-Marshall cleared the first two of these hurdles but not the third. The content of the Evans-Marshall’s curricular speech related to a matter of public concern, and a factual dispute existed over whether her interest in making curricular choices overshadowed any interest in disciplining her for doing so. Evans-Marshall also made a sufficient showing that her teaching choices caused her termination. However, because Evans-Marshall was speaking pursuant to her official duties, she was not speaking as a "citizen" for First Amendment purposes. Under Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3313.60(A), the school board was given responsibility over the curriculum. The concept of academic freedom, even if applicable outside the university setting did not insulate Evans-Marshall’s curricular and pedagogical choices from school board oversight.

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