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Running Header: TEACHERS RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

Teachers Rights and Responsibilities


Winter Henrie
Edu. 203-1002
College of Southern Nevada

TEACHERS RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

Abstract.
This paper will discuss both sides of racism, and racist remarks made by a white teacher at a
predominantly black school, and whether or not she should be able to continue teaching in her
current school. Though her comment was racist, she is still covered by the First Amendment and
her rights to freedom of speech apply in this case, and she should not be dismissed from her
current teaching position.

TEACHERS RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

Teachers Rights and Responsibilities


In a heated discussion with two African-American administrators Ann Griffin, a white
tenured teacher, stated that she hated all black folks. This remark evoked negative reactions
among both black and white colleagues. The principle, Freddi Watts, one of the black
administrators, recommended that Griffin be dismissed based on concerns that she could not treat
the students fairly, since this was a predominantly black school. Which raises the questions, is it
possible for an educator to be racist and still treat their students fairly, and does a single racist
remark make a person truly racist? There are many factors to consider before making a decision
regarding the dismissal of Griffin. Was this her first racists remark, has she ever treated her
students unfairly in the past, should the fact that it was a heated discussion allow her some room
for leniency regarding her remarks? Some will argue that the teachers comments are protected
under the First Amendment, and others might say that their is no room for racism in our teachers.
Ann Griffin was a tenured teacher, which is typically defined as, a status conferred by
state stature upon teachers who have served a specified probationary period that guarantees them
continued employment less the district can establish good and just cause for
dismissal (Underwood & Web, 2006). Being a tenured teacher means that, most likely, up until
the comment made to the principle and the assistant principle, she has taught at the school
without any indication that she was treating students unfairly based on race. Justin Klarer is a
high school teacher who accidentally sent a text to one of his students mothers referring to the
student as a dram queen and called her a bitch (Millard, 2011). This text was meant for one
of his friends who happened to have the same first name as the students mother. In the Clark
Country School District there is a contract between teachers and the district of a progressive

TEACHERS RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

disciplinary system. Meaning that as long as it is not a serious matter, assaulting a student or
having sexual relations with a student, then the first disciplinary action is a verbal warning, and
then a written, and then termination. Because of progressive discipline, within Clark County,
Klarer received a verbal warning, just as Griffin would under the same circumstance.
The U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that neither students or teachers shed their
constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse door (Underwood &
Web, 2006). This statement alone makes it very clear that Griffin should not be dismissed for the
comments she made. Pickering v. Board of education, a case in which Marvin Pickering was was
dismissed from his position as a teacher for his opinion about a proposed tax increase by the
school district. The courts ruled that this decision was unconstitutional and that he had the right
to freedom of speech. Freedom of speech does not need to be politically correct to be covered
under the First Amendment. However, some might argue that her comments might disrupt her
abilities as a teacher.
As in the case of Melzer v. Bd. of Educ. of the City Sch. Dis. of the City of N.Y. This was
a court case in which Melzer was fired for his membership of the North American Man/Boy
Love Association. The court found that Melzers membership in the group was potentially
disruptive to school operationsbecause students may not feel comfortable having a teacher
who advocated such views (Underwood & Web, 2006). Though Griffin is not a member of any
association that advocates racism, if her students knew that she made the comment, I hate all
black folks then they might not feel comfortable with her as a teacher. Especially, since the
majority of her student are black. So, was this a one time thing, or does the teacher have a history
of making inappropriate comments?

TEACHERS RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

In the case of Leitner V. Westchester Community College, the plaintiff was fired for
making offensive comments in class, and she sued claiming that the defendants violated her
state and federal constitutional rights (Leitner, 2015). Loiter was a tenured professor at
Westchester, and had several complaints made against her over the course of her teaching. She
had received written and verbal warning from administrators, regarding the comments she made
in the classroom. The courts found that the College was well within their rights to fire Leitner. If
Griffin had made comments in the past, just as Leitner, then her dismal from the school would be
appropriate.

Based on previous court cases and the Supreme Courts current stance, regarding the First
Amendment, it is hard to imagine that they would rule in favor of removing her from her current
teaching position. She will probably have a verbal or written warning based on her conduct, but
dismissal is very unlikely. Seeing as how there is no indication that she has ever made comments
related to hating black people in the past, and is not involved with any anti-black associations,
Griffins employment will not change.

TEACHERS RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

Resources
Underwood, Julie., & Webb, L. Dean. (2006). School Law For Teachers Concepts and
Applications. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.
Millard, T. (2011, September 25). Parents stunned by Arbor View teacher's text rant.
Retrieved September 3, 2015, from http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/education/parentsstunned-arbor-view-teachers-text-rant
Leitner v. Westchester Community College. (2015, February 25). Retrieved September 4,
2015, from http://caselaw.findlaw.com/summary/opinion/us-2nd-circuit/2015/02/25/272886.html