Retaliation for school employee speech

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University of Alabama Libraries

This study was a qualitative, document-based, legal-historical, multiple-case research project examining federal case law regarding the violation of free speech rights of PK-12 public school employees from June 1, 2006, through 2010. Historical documents, in the form of federal court decisions, involving retaliation for PK-12 public school employee speech, were examined using qualitative research methods. Qualitative analysis was used to determine patterns, themes, and categories in the case law. The sample was made up of 84 cases in the federal courts involving retaliation for public school employee speech since the Garcetti v. Ceballos decision, dating from June 1, 2006, through 2010. In 48 of the cases in the sample the court applied the precedent set forth in Garcetti to determine whether or not the speech was made as a citizen or as an employee. Of the cases where Garcetti was applied, more than 70% of the speech claims failed to pass the Garcetti threshold and the employee's speech was unprotected under the First Amendment. An important identified and recurring theme within the study was the question of how the court decided whether an employee's speech was "pursuant to the employee's official duties." The analysis also revealed a number of cases that involved political speech or instances of whistle-blowing. The analysis revealed how the courts determined whether or not an employee's speech was made pursuant to the employee's official duties. The analysis identified differences in the courts decisions based on the speech being politically-related, curriculum-related, or whistle-blowing in nature. An emerging outcome was revealed in the analysis where the court's application of Garcetti concluded that the speech owed its existence to job duties. The courts also tended to look to whether or not the speech was made public in determining if the speech was part of the employee's official duties. These outcomes indicated that a possibility exists that the lower courts are ignoring precedent from the Supreme Court without explanation and possibly misapplying Garcetti.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Educational leadership, Educational administration, Education policy