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Appeals Court Says ‘Bye to English Teacher Blogger

The First Amendment took a beating recently when a federal appeals court panel in Philadelphia, PA,  upheld the dismissal of an English teacher who wrote a semi-anonymous blog containing satirical observations about modern-day teaching at an affluent suburban high school.

Natalie Munroe was hired in 2006 by Central Bucks East High School in Doylestown, PA, earned tenure, and received excellent evaluations. But she became increasingly frustrated with student behavior,  especially with respect to academic integrity and honor, and lack of parental support for teachers. In 2009 she began a personal blog under the name “Natalie M’ that was called, “Where are we going, and why are we in this handbasket?”  The blog was intended for family and friends and had fewer than a dozen subscribers, including Munroe and her husband.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit noted forebodingly in its ruling that “no password was required to access the blog.”

Munroe was suspended after a local reporter asked a  school official in February 2011  if he was aware that students apparently were circulating material from the blog on Facebook and other social media. Her suspension led to national media attention that inflamed the controversy. Principal  Abram Lucabaugh estimated that 200 parents told the district they did not want Munroe to teach their children.  Munroe was fired in June 2012.

In a 2-1 ruling, the appellate panel upheld the dismissal of Munroe’s lawsuit in which she alleged her termination was retaliatory and violated her right to free speech . The majority said public employees are entitled to discuss issues of “public concern” but the state may impose speech restrictions on public employees that are necessary for efficient and effective operations.  Although most of Munroe’s 84 blog entries had nothing at all to do with her work, the majority said Munroe’s speech was sufficiently disruptive to the school to diminish any legitimate interest in its expression. The lone dissenter observed  the majority had “ducked’ the fact that Munroe’s media appearances and interviews contributed to her discharge and said that a jury should decide whether Munroe’s speech was protected by the First Amendment.  He maintained the school district “forfeited its right to match its operational interests against Munroe’s free speech interests” when it waited two years to fire her and failed to transfer her to another school.

The stated reason for Munroe’s dismissal was  “incompetency” even though she was obviously a better-than-average English teacher. She was a good writer. Her comments were pointed but funny and thought-provoking. And she cared.

[Read more…]

Best Legal Blog Finalist

This blog is a finalist from among a field of more than 2,000 legal blogs across the country for The Expert Institute’s Best Legal Blog.

Abuser Goes to Work, at, is among 250 nominees in eight different categories – ranging from criminal justice to intellectual property. The blog covers legal developments with respect to employment discrimination, bullying and abuse and offers a wide variety of resources for both workers and employers. To vote for Abuser Goes to Work, go here and use the vote button on the upper right or click the blue mediallion on the right sidebar of this blog and go from there.

This blog also is syndicated by Newstex, which provides news and commentary from the “world’s best authoritative sources.”

Readers will vote on the winner in each of the eight categories in balloting that concludes at midnight on October 9. The three blogs that receive the most votes overall will receive cash prizes. The competition can be found at The Expert Institute is a technology-driven platform for connecting qualified experts in every field with lawyers, investment firms, and journalists looking for technical expertise and guidance.

Censorship by the Library of Congress

“I cannot live without books.”

This famous statement by Thomas Jefferson was the theme of a recent National Book Festival held by the Library of Congress (LOC) in Washington, DC.

But the dirty secret is that the LOC can live without certain books – books that are not published by a small number of national and international publishers (i.e. corporations) that apparently have the LOC’s stamp of approval.  In other words, the LOC can live without self-published books.

I know this because the LOC has refused to catalog my 2014 book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, to make it available to policy-makers who are working on issues involving age discrimination. When I asked why earlier this year, I received the following email on May 18, 2015 from Kurt Carroll, Chief, Law Collection Services:

“The format, level of depth, and policy focus did not meet our criteria for addition to our research collection.  I consider this decision closed and do not wish to discuss further.”

Technically, censorship is the practice of officially examining books, movies, etc., and suppressing unacceptable parts.  In this case, it is not clear whether the LOC bothered to look at my book.   On its face, Carroll’s email is absurd.

Lacks depth? My book delves into law and case law and  is  heavily footnoted. Only a moron would say that it lacks a policy focus. The book is about the lack of equal justice afforded under current American law to older workers who are victims of age discrimination when compared to workers who are victims of discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion and national origin. It is also about the devastating impact of the Great Recession on older workers due to epidemic and unaddressed aged discrimination. [Read more…]