Keith Allison, the elementary school teacher in Wayne County, Ohio who was terminated last year over a post about veal crates on his personal Facebook page has filed a lawsuit against the district for damages, back pay and his right to unrestricted free speech.
Apparently just un-friending people isn’t enough these days
It all started last year when Allison snapped a picture of veal crates on a local dairy farm that were visible from the road while he was out for a bike ride. He put the picture on his Facebook page along with the caption, “As someone who grew up feeling parental love and support, and now as a parent who gives love and support, I reject the claim that separating babies from loving mothers to raise them isolated in boxes can ever be considered humane.”
Allison was then informed that, due to complaints from the dairy farmers to the school over the post, his teaching contract was not going to be renewed. Once word got out about the school district’s decision to fire the teacher, uproar over the decision was immediate, with the story getting national news, and a Change.org petition to reinstate him gathering over 100,000 signatures. He was reinstated as a teacher with the district, but unfortunately, he was not given his former position back. He was instead placed at the junior high school, a move that Allison feels was retaliatory.
He was eventually reinstated as a teacher with the district, but unfortunately, he was not given his former position back. He was instead placed at the junior high school, a move that Allison feels was retaliatory.
Can you blame him? Junior high is seriously the worst.
Green Local School District, the district responsible for terminating Allison, has a policy on the books that prevents teachers from voicing opinions on their views if members of the community might disagree with them. Allison and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) feel that is a violation of personal rights.
“Public employees don’t lose their First Amendment rights by virtue of their job,” said ACLU of Ohio Legal Director Freda Levenson. After rejecting a small settlement offer from the school district that didn’t even completely cover his back pay let alone the infringement on his rights, the decision was made to pursue legal action against the district in the hopes that both Allison and future teachers are not subject to being silenced in fear that the area’s farming community might take issue with their opinion.
“During the meeting with my superintendent, I was informed we live in a large agricultural area, which is true, and that a lot of our money for the schools comes through residents of the community and that I needed to be very careful of what I put on (Facebook) because I might offend the community and the economic interests of the community,” Allison said at the time. “I was also told that I could have any personal beliefs I want to have, but if I want to be a strong vegan advocate, I might want to look into doing something other than teaching.”
Educators shouldn’t question the status quo…what?
This case is going to be important to watch, not just for Allison, but for anyone who’s interested in their right to voice a personal view in a public forum. Going around spouting untruths and becoming upset that the ramifications of those actions aren’t protected by free speech is one thing. But, pointing out the inherent and well-documented cruelty in a practice that many people find wrong is quite another.
Allison didn’t enter the farm’s property or say they were doing something that they weren’t. The issue here is, Allison called attention to this farm’s decision to produce veal in plain view and the farm didn’t appreciate being called out on their choice.
For those who are curious, this is a type of veal crate. Those are baby calves. Look at this and refrain from having an opinion. See? Not so easy.
Laws and policies such as the one employed by Green Local School District and various Ag-Gag laws prohibit whistleblowers from alerting the public of cruelty. If this continues to exist, companies will be empowered to function completely unchecked.
Considering the atrocities that are already being committed, losing our ability to comment on them could have devastating effects for everyone. Is that really what we want?
Lead Image Credit: Care 2