The ACLU and PETA have settled a lawsuit with an Ohio school district that fired an employee over a Facebook post. Keith Allison, a Title I tutor in the Green Local School District of Smithville, was terminated from his position in August of 2014. Now he has been reinstated and granted all back pay from the months he spent without a job.
The trouble began in August of 2014 when Allison complained about the treatment of cows on dairy farms. He did so on his Facebook page, using his home computer and working on his own time. The post included a photo of a dairy farm, but did not identify the farm or the landowner.
The school district felt that the post would offend the farmer. They acted quickly, terminating Allison. He complained to PETA, and the organization passed the issue along to the ACLU. After agreeing to represent Allison, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on his behalf. In the complaint the ACLU points out that teachers do not sacrifice their right to free speech simply because they work for a public school district. There was nothing illegal in Allison’s posting. Moreover, he had not used school equipment to create the post and he was not on school district time.
The parties have now settled the matter without going to trial. It took several months, but eventually the school district agreed to pay the salary owed to Allison as well as outstanding pension contributions. The district will also pay for the legal expenses of the ACLU and PETA.
In addition, the school district has issued a statement affirming the right of teachers to express their opinions on matters of public concern, demonstrating to the children they educate that voicing a protest is a necessary component of a free nation.