Adjunct Law Prof Blog

Editor: Mitchell H. Rubinstein
New York Law School

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Teacher's Complaints Not Protected Under First Amendment

2dcirseal Woodlock v. Orange Ulster BOCES, ___Fed. App'x. ___(2d Cir. June 18, 2008), illustrates how narrow public employee First Amendment rights are after Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410, 418 (2006). A public school teacher who complained about the lack of proper special education classes was speaking pursuant to her official duties and, therefore, her speech was unprotected. As the court stated:

  "[W]hen public employees make statements pursuant to their
official duties, the employees are not speaking as citizens for
First Amendment purposes, and the Constitution does not insulate
their communications from employer discipline." Id. at 421.
Woodlock's communications regarding M.C. and the lack of physical
education and art classes at the Cornwall satellite were made
pursuant to her "official duties" as a special education
counselor, in which capacity she was responsible for monitoring
her students' behavior, needs, and progress. Ruotolo v. City of
New York, 514 F.3d 184, 188 (2d Cir. 2008). In reporting her
concerns she was "perform[ing] the tasks [s]he was paid to
perform." Garcetti, 547 U.S. at 422. In such circumstances, an
employee is not engaging in protected speech and cannot proceed
on a First Amendment retaliation claim. See Ruotolo, 514 F.3d at

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

Education Law | Permalink

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