Miami Dade County School Board Wins First Amendment Case
The U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of the Miami-Dade County School Board on grounds that it did not violate two employees’ First Amendment rights.
Plaintiffs- Principal Alberto Fernandez and Assistant Principal Henny Cristobol, claimed they were disciplined when they tried converting the historic Neva King Campbell Educational Center into a charter school.
The Miami-Dade County School Board had launched an investigation to determine if Fernandez and Cristobol were inappropriately using school time and resources with their conversion efforts, ultimately demoting them while the investigation remained pending.
Fernandez and Cristobol sought First Amendment protection in federal court, but, the U.S. District court ruled against Fernandez and Cristobol, concluding that they “plainly spoke in the course of their official duties, their speech did not enjoy First Amendment protection.”
“Whether they spoke as private citizens or public employees and about matters of public concern makes all the difference. Sometimes, answering these questions is difficult, particularly as we remember that ‘citizens do not surrender their First Amendment rights by accepting public employment.’ Lane v. Franks, 134 S. Ct. 2369, 2374 (2014). This is not one of those cases.”
“The long and short of it is that the principal and assistant principal of Neva King Cooper Educational Center spearheaded this charter school conversion pursuant to their official duties. They may not sue the School Board under the First Amendment.” Judge Stanley Marcus
The school board was represented by in-house counsel Luis Garcia.
Fernandez and Cristobol were represented by three lawyers with their own firms: Thomas Elfers of Miami, Robert Gibson Jr. of Lake Wales and Craig Freger of Pembroke Pines.
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