Search Team

Search by Last Name
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
K
L
M
N
O
P
Q
R
S
T
U
V
W
X
Y
Z

Press Releases

Fish Successfully Defends Teacher’s Free Speech Rights In Important Pro Bono Settlement And Secures School’s Promise To Train Staff On Importance Of Free Speech

July 24, 2014

Press Releases

Fish Successfully Defends Teacher’s Free Speech Rights In Important Pro Bono Settlement And Secures School’s Promise To Train Staff On Importance Of Free Speech

July 24, 2014

Back to News Listing

Fish & Richardson attorneys recently teamed up with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in securing a favorable settlement on behalf of long-term substitute teacher Mr. Jonathan Hurley with the Town of Sandwich Public Schools on allegations that school officials improperly removed him from his teaching assignment and the substitute teacher list. The school officials based their decision on their disapproval of an award-winning music video Mr. Hurley made before joining the school which pokes fun at various religious beliefs. The removal prevented Mr. Hurley from obtaining any teaching jobs within the town’s public schools.

Fish attorneys Adam Kessel and Sivananda Reddy and the ACLU negotiated with the town’s attorney, who quickly acknowledged that a mistake had been made. Fish and the ACLU credited Sandwich Schools for resolving the matter short of litigation. The school agreed to compensate Mr. Hurley, to strike references of Mr. Hurley’s removal from the substitute list from its records, and to provide him with favorable references in the future. The outcome of the case is important for the message it sends to school staff and administrators around the country. As part of the settlement, the town will train its administrators and teachers about teachers’ rights to speak as citizens outside of school. Referring to the result, Mr. Hurley said, “It’s ultimately a positive thing for the school, for the teachers and in general.”

“Teachers can’t be constrained in their lives outside of school with administrators preventing them from having opinions and speaking out on issues,” said Adam Kessel, a principal at Fish & Richardson who handled the case pro bono. “The school principal explicitly noted in Hurley’s personnel file that the reason he was being removed as a substitute was that his website contained a song he wrote that ‘parodies various religions’ and that students ‘have access to this.’ This reason was plainly improper.”

“This is a fair result for all parties involved without resorting to wasteful litigation,” added Fish & Richardson attorney Sivananda Reddy, who also worked on the case. “While teachers can’t abuse their position of authority in school, they should be able to express opinions in the outside world.”

To read the entire article, please click here.

Related Attorneys

Stay current with Fish Sign up for our Newsletter