Judge: Teacher’s blog calling students ‘frightfully dim’ not covered by free speech protections

Jul 31, 2014 by

BUCKS COUNTY, Pa. – Teachers who like to insult students in their free time might want to choose their words carefully after a Pennsylvania judge ruled such musings aren’t necessarily protected by free speech.

Bucks County teacher Natalie Munroe was terminated from her position in 2012 shortly after her online blog raised issues with parents at Central Bucks High School East, who didn’t appreciate the way she disparaged students as “frightfully dim,” “utterly loathsome” and “whiny,” Philly.com reports.

Munroe challenged her termination – which school officials contend was because of her teaching performance – as a violation of her free speech rights, but a federal judge ruled last week that “the blog failed a long-standing judicial test that balances a teacher’s free speech rights against the interests of a school district to operate efficiently,” the news site reports.

“Far from implicating larger discussions of educational reform, pedagogical methods, or specific school policies, (Munroe) mostly complained about the failure of her students to live up to her expectations, and focused on negative interactions between herself and her students,” U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe wrote, according to Philly.com.

Put another way, the teacher’s blog “was sufficiently disruptive so as to diminish any legitimate interest in its expression, and thus her expression was not protected,” Rufe wrote.

The judge ultimately ruled that Munroe can’t sue the district to get her job back and to collect damages from her termination.

The lawsuit comes after Monroe was fired in 2012 over a series of bad job evaluations. The year prior, her blog caused a local uproar on social media sites, and also garnered coverage from national media outlets. District officials suspended the teacher, then reinstated her but allowed parents to opt their children out of her classes.

The teacher contends in her lawsuit that she attempted to transfer to the district’s other high schools, but the request was denied and she was eventually fired over what she characterized as overly critical job evaluations, Philly.com reports.

Munroe sought to keep her job and wanted the district to pay compensatory and punitive damages for her termination, but district officials have maintained that they fired her because she was a bad teacher, not because of her blog.

Regardless, Munroe’s attorney, Steven Rovner, said he plans to take the case to the next level.

“We respectfully disagree with the judge,” Rovner told Philly.com. “The appellate court will have the chance to decide on the free speech issue.”

Clearly, Munroe believes she’s entitled to her job, despite the fact that she apparently didn’t appreciate it very much. After all, what’s the point of announcing to the world that “my students are out of control. They are rude, disengaged, lazy whiners”?

A teacher’s job is to find ways to engage and energize students to help them learn the things they’ll need in college and life, not to complain about their behavior in a public forum.

Public schools exist to educate young minds, but it seems obvious that Munroe was more interested in dragging her students down than inspiring them to succeed.

via Judge: Teacher’s blog calling students ‘frightfully dim’ not covered by free speech protections – EAGnews.org powered by Education Action Group Foundation, Inc..

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