Derek Ide was a substitute teacher for the Sylvania School District on and off between 2011 and 2016. On May 9, 2016 the District wrote him a letter stating that: “Your substitute teaching position has been renewed for the 2016-2017 school year. You have reasonable assurance that your current position as a substitute teacher will be yours for the upcoming school year.”
On or about August 16, 2016, Derek spoke to the District’s H.R. Director, who informed him that, despite previous assurances, the District refused to renew his position due to a Facebook post that he had made in October, 2015. This post, which Derek made using his own resources and outside of school hours, consisted of political commentary regarding a then-viral video of a school security guard abusing an African American middle school student.
The District’s decision not to renew Derek as a substitute teacher in a public school district due to his statements on a matter of public interest violates his First Amendment rights. Derek made this statement on his own personal time, and it had no apparent impact on his job performance.
On September 7, 2016 we sent a demand letter to the Sylvania School District threatening litigation unless the District issued an apology, reinstated Derek in his position as a substitute teacher, and issued him back pay. After settlement discussions, counsel for the District made an offer of settlement on October 19, 2016, and, on January 11, 2017, settlement was concluded. The District agreed to pay our client $6,900 in damages; to pay the ACLU $2,000 in attorney fees; to post a statement on social media that our client’s dismissal was not a reflection of his performance as a teacher; and to allow the ACLU to review the District’s policies regarding the free speech rights of employees.