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Artifact #2: Teachers’ Rights and Responsibilities

Cecilia Andrade Salcedo

EDU 210: Sherry Herington



Throughout the history of teachers and the evolution of education, laws and the constitution have

had a vast impact in how our education system works today. Even the laws that are not precisely

for education, still apply to the educators of this country as they are public employees. In a

hypothetical scenario, Freddie Watts, principle, and Jimmy Brothers, assistant principle are both

African-American work at a predominately black high school, where they are offended by a

statement said by Ann Griffin, a white tenured teacher. There are several possible outcomes to

what could happen just by reading in different cases and applying current laws.

In a predominately black high school, Freddie Watts, principal, and Jimmy Brothers,

assistant principal get in a heated argument with Ann Griffin, a white tenured teacher. During the

argument Ms. Griffin stated she “hated all black folk.” Shortly after the word spread around

about what Ms. Griffin had said, it caused negative reactions among others in the school. Mr.

Watts has suggested her dismissal from the school based on concerns regarding her ability to

treat students fairly and her competency as a teacher. Considering the laws that have been

implemented on teachers and court cases that have occurred in the past, there are several possible

rulings; both ruling for, and against Ms. Griffin.

Ms. Griffin should be dismissed from her position in the high school as the statement

made has caused negative reactions among colleagues. These negative reactions among her

colleagues might not impair Ms. Griffin’s teaching effectiveness however, it will jeopardize her

relationship with coworkers and administrators, which will interfere with the management of the

school. Supporting the dismissal of Ms. Griffin, is the 1968 landmark case of Pickering v. Board

of Education. In Pickering v. Board of Education, Marvin Pickering was terminated for writing a

letter to a local newspaper about the allocation of school funding. Although Marvin Pickering

has First Amendment rights to air his views on matters of public concern, he made false

statements which damaged the reputation of school board members and district administrators

which is why the Illinois courts upheld his dismissal. The outcome of this case was later

reviewed by the Supreme Court resulting in a balancing test which stated teachers could be

terminated if their expression: Jeopardized his/her relationship with immediate supervisor and/or

harmony with co-workers, interfered with teaching effectiveness, or interfered with school


On the contrary, Ms. Griffin should not be dismissed because of a comment she made to

her principal and assistant principal in private. Although, Ms. Griffin’s statement is not a positive

one, she should not be punished for exercising her First Amendment rights of freedom of speech

and freedom of expression. Supporting Ms. Griffin’s case is Givhan v. Western Line

Consolidated School District, a Supreme Court case in 1979, Bessie Givhan, a teacher in

Mississippi had several private conversations with the principal. In the conversations with her

principal, Givhan expressed her belief that the school district’s practices and policies were

racially discriminatory. After the school year, her teaching contract was not renewed. Givhan

then sued the school board, claiming that officials terminated her employment for exercising her

First Amendment rights to free speech. After hearing this case, the Supreme Court ruled that

public employees are allowed within specific boundaries to express their opinions, whether

positive or negative, in private with their employer without fear of punishment. With that said,

Ms. Griffin should not be terminated, she was exercising her First Amendment rights.

In the case of Mt. Healthy City School District v. Doyle, the school district attempted to

dismiss a teacher for making a call to a local radio station to comment on teacher grooming. In

this case, the lower courts ruled in favor of the teacher however, the Supreme Court reversed the

case and ruled differently. The Supreme Court ruled that teachers are responsible for proof that

their speech was constitutionally protected. Once the teacher’s speech is proven to be protected,

the school board must show a great number of evidence that would justify the teacher’s

terminations with the absence of the teacher’s exercise of protected speech. In other words, that

the teacher would have been dismissed even if he had not made the call to the radio station. This

being the case, Ms. Griffin was a tenured teacher, therefore, she had already passed her

probationary teaching period and had proven to be a qualified teacher. Mr. Watts and Mr.

Brothers are basing Ms. Griffin’s dismissal on concerns and no other evidence that indicated Ms.

Griffin was unable to perform her job duties. Ultimately, there are no other indications for Ms.

Griffin to be dismissed from her position duties.

In Garcetti v. Ceballos, a case that took place in 2006, the Supreme Court decided on yet

another landmark case. The Supreme Court established that speech by a public official is only

protected if it is engaged in as a private citizen, not if it is expressed as part of their official

public duties. With that in mind, Ms. Griffin was in a heated conversation with Mr. Watts and

Mr. Brothers, in this heated conversation Ms. Griffin said she “hated all black folks.” Ms. Griffin

was in the school premises when making such statement to her principal and assistant principal,

therefore, she made such comment as a public employee. Ms. Griffin said she “hated all black

folks” out of frustration and anger, but it does not justify that she caused conflict between her

black supervisors. With that said, Ms. Griffin should be terminated for lack of professionalism,

misconduct, and jeopardizing relationships with collogues.

Overall, Ms. Griffin made a mistake of saying she “hated all black folks” in front of her

supervisors and word leaked out causing negative reactions among colleagues. Although Ms.

Griffin said this statement out of anger, it does not justify her actions nor does it repair the

broken relationships between her school colleagues. Therefore, Ms. Griffin should be dismissed

from her position as stated on the Balancing Test from Pickering vs. Board of Education.


Cambron-McCabe, N. H., McCarthy, M. M., & Eckes, S. (2014). Legal rights of teachers

and students. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Jernigan, M. J. (2015, December 18). Givhan v. Western Line Consolidated School

District. Retrieved February 25, 2017, from