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Portfolio Artifact #2

Teachers’ Rights and Responsibilities

Madison Evans

Edu 210

Dr. Dale B. Warby

9/10/18
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Freddie Watts and Jimmy Brothers are the principal and vice principal of a school. They

are both African American and work in a high school with the majority of students being black.

During an argument with Watts and Brothers, Ann Griffin, a white teacher, said that she “hated

all black folks”. The administration and her colleagues were upset about her statement. Watts

suggested to fire her, as he is afraid she will act this way towards her students. The Texas v.

Johnson case (1989) and the Tinker v Des Moines School District (1969) case support Griffin’s

side that she should not be dismissed. The Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States (1964)

case and the Givhan v. Western Line Consolidated School District (1979) case support the

principal’s side that she should be dismissed.

In the Texas v. Johnson case (1989), Gregory Lee Johnson burned an American flag in

protest. The public was outraged, but the Supreme Court ruled even speech that is offensive is

protected by the first amendment, even if the public is outraged (United States Courts). Griffin’s

statement that she “hated all black folks” is offensive speech, but this case gives her protection

by the first amendment.

In the Tinker v Des Moines School District (1969) case, students were protesting the

Vietnam War by wearing black arm bands to school. The principal told the students that they

would be suspended for wearing them, but the students wore them anyway. After being

suspended, the parents decided to sue the school. The Supreme Court ruled that first amendment

right applies to teachers and students, as long as they are not disruptive or infringe on the rights

of others (United States Courts). Griffin’s statement was not disruptive nor did it harm anyone

else, so this case allows her to say these without punishment.

In the Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States (1964) case, the owner of a hotel

refused to rent rooms to people who were not white. He claimed that he was allowed to do this,
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and Congress was over stepping their privileges by saying that this violated the Civil Rights Act

of 1964. The court decided that discrimination in public accommodations is prohibited (Cornell

Law School). Griffin’s statement raised concerns that she would not treat students fairly because

of their race. This discrimination would not be allowed in this setting because schools are a

public accommodation.

In the Givhan v. Western Line Consolidated School District (1979) case, a teacher was

dismissed due to her racist statements. The teacher claimed that the first amendment gave her the

right to say these things and that she should get her job back. The court decided that public

employees have the right to free speech. However, the Court of Appeals deemed that one is not

entitled to constitutional protection if the speech is not public (Justia US Supreme Court). In the

teacher’s case, her statements were made in private. Ann Griffin’s statements were also made in

private. She was in an office with two other people, and her complaint was expressed privately,

so she is not constitutionally protected.

The court will likely rule on the principal’s side. There is substantial reason to believe

that Ann Griffin would discriminate against her students. Since discrimination is not allowed in

public accommodations, this would be prohibited (Cornell Law School). It would also have a

negative impact on the students’ education and wellbeing. Also, since her statement was

expressed in private, it is not protected by the first amendment (Justia US Supreme Court). It is a

teacher’s responsibility to treat all students equally. It would not be fair for a student to be treated

differently than the rest because of their skin color. Teachers should work to reach every student;

it seems that Griffin might not be capable of this. Although her statement was said during a

heated argument, what she said is most likely how she sees all black people, even her students. It
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would not be worth the risk of having a biased teacher when someone else can take her place that

can treat the students equally and be a good teacher.


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References

Cornell Law School. (n.d.). Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States. Retrieved September 8,

2018, from https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/379/241

Justia US Supreme Court. (n.d.). Givhan v. Western Line Cons. Sch. Dist., 439 U.S. 410 (1979).

Retrieved September 8, 2018, from https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/439/410/

United States Courts. (n.d.). Facts and Case Summary - Texas v. Johnson. Retrieved September

8, 2018, from http://www.uscourts.gov/educational-resources/educational-activities/facts-

and-case-summary-texas-v-johnson

United States Courts. (n.d.). Tinker v. Des Moines Podcast. Retrieved September 8, 2018, from

http://www.uscourts.gov/about-federal-courts/educational-resources/supreme-court-

landmarks/tinker-v-des-moines-podcast