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Layla A. Ward
College of Southern Nevada

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In the case of Griffin v. Watts we are presented with a situation where a teacher has
exercised their right to free speech. The question at hand is if this was within federal regulations
for the First Amendment of teachers. Ann Griffin is a teacher at a predominantly back high
school. When she finds herself in an argument with Freddie Watts, the principal, and Jimmy
Brothers, the assistant principle, she expresses that she hated all black folks. She was then
recommended for dismissal on the bases that she could not treat students fairly and she lacked
the competency she needed to be a teacher.
Pro Support
In this case we have to take into consideration the First Amendment in schools. Teachers
and other public employees may validate their use of free speech if they can show that their
speech had public importance and public concern (First Amendment Schools, 2015). In this case,
it does not appear that Griffin stated that she hated all black folks with any public important or
concern. In a similar case, Boring V. Buncombe Bd. Of Educ. the courts heard a case in which
Boring had exercised her right of freedom of speech by putting on a controversial school play.
She was transferred to a new school. The courts upheld the school district decision on the basis
that Borings speech did not have any public importance (First Amendment Schools, 2015)
We can also look at the case of Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser. In this case a
teacher uses inappropriate and vulgar language in an educational setting. The school district
terminated the teacher and he sued. The courts ruled in favor on the school district on the basis
that his use of speech was not within the lines of the fundamental values of the public school
system (Bethel School District, 2015). This is relative to the case by understanding the

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fundamental values of the public school system. Teachers are expected to have an equal respect
to all of their students, and this value is not honored by Griffins actions.

Con Support
In the case of Griffin V. Watts the argument to protect Griffins right to freedom of speech
can be made. In order for her speech to be reason for termination, it must cause a disruption to
her classroom and hinder her ability to do her job. While her statement may be very harsh, it
does not necessarily mean that she discriminates against her students. In order to make a case of
discrimination, much more information would be needed. In a similar case, Chambers V. Babbit,
a student exercised their freedom of speech by wearing a shirt that said Straight Pride. While
this was taken as a cruel act against the gay population, it could not be shown that the shirt was
the cause of any disrupt within the school. The courts ruled that he would be allowed to continue
wearing the shirt (First Amendment Schools, 2015). This relates to the case in which it must be
shown that Griffins statement has disrupted her ability to teach and the students ability to learn.
In another case, Saxe V. State College Area School District, two students challenged the
school districts policies about harassment stating that it was violating their religious views. The
students had religious views that homosexuality was a sin, and they felt that they should not be
stopped from expressing it. Harassment is often defined as, unwelcome verbal, written, or
physical conduct which offends, denigrates, or belittles an individual due to race, religion,
color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or other personal characteristics. In
this case, it was pointed out that the policy is too broadly worded and would prohibit too much
speech to respect the first amendment (First Amendment Schools, 2015). From this it can be
taken that a specific guideline would have already needed to be in place in order for this teacher

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to be dismissed. Without proof of such guidelines, there can be no validity that she was not
simply expressing freedom of speech of her viewpoints.

I feel that it would be in the courts best decision to rule in favor of the school and/or
schoolboard in this case. Griffins discriminating views upon her students hinder her ability to do
her job properly. She stated her opinions inappropriately. In the case of Bethel School District
No. 403 v. Fraser it is ruled that inappropriate behavior by a teacher is not protected by the first
amendment. In Boring V. Buncombe Bd. Of Education, the point is made that while a teachers
viewpoints are theirs to have, they cannot use controversial subject matter within schools, and
that the supervisors have the right to determine what is allowed and what is not. I would
definitely say that due to these ideas, she could not properly preform her job as a teacher and
therefore any repercussions or termination is acceptable.

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BETHEL SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 403 v. FRASER. (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2015, from

First Amendment Schools: The Five Freedoms - Court Case. (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2015,
from http://www.firstamendmentschools.org/freedoms/case.aspx?id=1682

First Amendment Schools: The Five Freedoms - Court Case. (n.d.). Retrieved March 31, 2015,
from http://www.firstamendmentschools.org/freedoms/case.aspx?id=1691z

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