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US Teachers’ Rights, Dismissal, and Discrimination Case Study

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Updated: Jun 29th, 2020

The violation of teachers’ rights is a very common problem that arises in both public and private schools. In its various forms, starting with violations of fundamental individual rights and finishing with unlawful dismissals of public humiliation, it becomes more and more disturbing. The major complication is that even when teachers realize that they are being bullied or humiliated, they do not necessarily fight for their own rights because of the fear of being fired, for example. This paper analyzes three different types of rights violations with reference to US legislation that can legally support the accusation in these cases.

The First Case: The Violation of Teacher’s Individual Rights

The first case study is taken from the book by Blase and Blase (2006), where the authors address the issue of workplace abuse, from its nonverbal manifestations like aggressive eye contact to various verbal behaviors such as public humiliation. Their study was aimed to find the prevalence of principal mistreatment of teachers, and the results turned out to be rather disturbing.

The case I would like to pay attention to is the story told by an anonymous victim of principal mistreatment. The woman who works at Camelot School tells about a time when she has tried to tell the accreditation reviewer that “all is not well in Camelot” (Blase & Blase, 2003, p. 12). The very next day after the woman did it, the principal held the meeting when she told that there was a traitor among the teachers, and she would like to find out who exactly it was. Moreover, she threatened with dismissal everyone who “dared to speak up about anything that was negative about the school” (Blase & Blase, 2003, p. 12). Since then, as the woman tells, everyone has understood that if you say something the principal does not like, the repercussions will follow. The woman also realized that she gave the principal an extra reason to fire her at the earliest possible opportunity, but she did not fight for her rights because she was a single mom and did not want to lose her job.

Surely, I understand the reasons why the woman did not want to fight for her rights. Still, if she had dared to proceed with the accusation, it would have been legally supported. First of all, the principal violates the First Amendment since she deprives the woman of her freedom of expression and the ability to speak freely (First Amendment, n.d.). Secondly, this case also falls under the Fourteenth Amendment, which protects people from the infringements of government actors, including school administrative officials (14th Amendment, n.d.). Finally, teacher tenure laws that many states establish set particular legal parameters of relations between teachers and school officials (First Amendment Center, 2015).

The Second Case: The Unfair Dismissal from Teaching Position

The second case tells about the violation of almost the same rights as the first one; however, the man here decided to fight for his rights and faced unfair dismissal because of those efforts.

Marvin Pickering, a teacher in one of the high schools in Illinois, once wrote a letter to the local newspaper to throw light on some of the local Board of Education’s decisions (Hong Lee & Rosenbloom, 2015, p. 88). The Board had a goal to raise more than five million dollars to build two new schools. When the money was raised, “members of the board were not being straight about how they were spending some of this money for these new schools” (Hudson, 2002, p. 8).

While almost four million were spent on one school, another one got too little money, and its classrooms were literally constructed with only three walls. Right after Marvin Pickering wrote the letter to The Lockport Herald revealing the poor Board’s decision-making, he was fired from the school he worked in. It did not stop Marvin, and he went to the Illinois Supreme Court with the claim that his right to freedom of expression had been violated. However, the court voted against Marvin. Then, the man applied to the U.S. Supreme Court, and it finally voted 8-1 in his favor.

Pickering’s accusation against the Board of Education was legally supported at least for three reasons. First of all, there is the First Amendment that provides everyone with the freedom of speech and the press (First Amendment, n.d.). Secondly, there has been the abuse of power since Marvin Pickering has been fired without any valid reasons for that, which the Fourteenth Amendment addresses (14th Amendment, n.d.). Besides, illegal firings are prohibited by the Wrongful Termination Law (Wrongful termination, n.d.).

The Third Case: Discrimination against Teachers

Although there are many laws that prohibit any type of discrimination in the workplace, including The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), and many others, discrimination still exists, and teachers are not rare objects of it (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2009).

The case of Givhan v. Western Line Consolidated School District is one of the prime examples. A black teacher Bessie Givhan worked in the Western Line School District in Mississippi (Russo, 2008, p. 384). Several times during the time of her employment, the woman tried to throw light on particular hiring policies and practices that she believed were racially discriminatory (Russo, 2008, p. 384).

She repeatedly initiated these topics at meetings and even came straight to the principal’s office with that aim once. However, nobody listened to the woman. Moreover, when the school year was over, her contract was not renewed without any valid reasons for that (Zirkel, Richardson, & Goldberg, 2001, p. 112). Bessie Givhan got a letter from the principal where the reasons for non-renewing the contract were indicated, and among those – the fact that the woman had “unreasonable and hostile demands” (Russo, 2008, p. 384).

Bessie Givhan sued the school board for the violation of her rights protected by the First and the Fourteenth Amendments. Surely, the Constitution is the first legislation that supports her accusation. However, it is not the only one. This case can also refer to the Wrongful Termination Law since it prohibits firings based on different types of discrimination (Wrongful termination, n.d.). Additionally, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act addresses the issue of discrimination as well (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, n.d.).

To conclude, the cases of violation of teachers’ rights are not rare. However, our rights are definitely worth fighting for them. First of all, there are many legislations that protect teachers from different types of rights violations, discrimination, and so on. Second of all, if such cases are simply left behind, and the victim just closes the eyes on what is happening, the disappointing tendency that is present now will persist.

References

. (n.d.). Web.

Blase, J., & Blase, J. (2003). Breaking the Silence: Overcoming the Problem of Principal Mistreatment of Teachers. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Blase, J., & Blase, J. (2006). Teachers’ perspectives on principal mistreatment. Teacher Education Quarterly, 33(4), 123-142.

First Amendment Center. (2015). What types of laws protect teachers? Web.

. (n.d.). Web.

Hong Lee, L. X., & Rosenbloom, D. H. (2015). A Reasonable Public Servant: Constitutional Foundations of Administrative Conduct in the United States. New York, NY: Routledge.

Hudson, D. L. J. (2002). Balancing Act: Public Employees and Free Speech. First Reports, 3(2), 1-41.

Russo, C. J. (2008). Encyclopedia of Education Law. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (2009). Laws Enforced by EEOC. Web.

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (n.d.). . Web.

(n.d.). Web.

Zirkel, P. A., Richardson, S. N., & Goldberg, S. S. (2001). A Digest of Supreme Court Decisions Affecting Education (4th ed.). Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa International.

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