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Law School Case Brief

Parducci v. Rutland - 316 F. Supp. 352 (M.D. Ala. 1970)

Rule:

Although academic freedom is not one of the enumerated rights of the First Amendment, the Supreme Court of the United States has on numerous occasions emphasized that the right to teach, to inquire, to evaluate and to study is fundamental to a democratic society. The nation is deeply committed to safeguarding academic freedom, which is of transcendent value to all and not merely to the teachers concerned. That freedom is therefore a special concern of the First Amendment, which does not tolerate laws that cast a pall of orthodoxy over the classroom. The classroom is peculiarly the "marketplace of ideas." Furthermore, the safeguards of the First Amendment will quickly be brought into play to protect the right of academic freedom because any unwarranted invasion of this right will tend to have a chilling effect on the exercise of the right by other teachers.

Facts:

Plaintiff Marilyn Parducci was dismissed from her position as a high school teacher in the Montgomery public schools for assigning a certain short story to her junior (eleventh grade) English classes. Parducci subsequently filed a lawsuit in federal district court alleging that defendants, the school's Principal, Jack D. Rutland, and others, violated her First Amendment right to academic freedom and her Fourteenth Amendment right to due process of law in ordering her dismissal. She sought damages and injunctive relief.

Issue:

Was Parducci's First Amendment rights violated when she was terminated for assigning a certain short story to her 11th grade English class?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The court ordered that Parducci be reinstated for the duration of her contract.

After reviewing the story assigned by Parducci, the district court found nothing that would render it inappropriate for high school juniors. The court also found that there was no material and substantial threat of disruption that interfered with the reasonable requirements of discipline in the school because of the story's assignment. The court concluded that Parducci's dismissal constituted an unwarranted invasion of her First Amendment right to academic freedom. The court stated that it could not find any substantial interest of the schools that would have been served by giving the school board and school officials unfettered discretion in deciding how the First Amendment rights of teachers were to be exercised.

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