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Administrator Speech within PK-12 Public Education Systems: An Analysis of the Speech Rights of School Administrators in the Wake of Recent Federal Court Decisions Post Garcetti
AuthorBrackett, David A.
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Competing interests exist within PK-12 public education systems regarding the extent the First Amendment protects expression: individuals have the right to express themselves, while public educations systems have the right to limit expression in order for the public entity to operate effectively and efficiently (Pickering v. Board of Education, 1968; Connick v. Myers, 1983). In Tinker (1969), the Supreme Court stated, "It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate." Subsequent decisions, however, have limited the extent of First Amendment protection afforded to government employees, including those in public schools. This study examined the expressive rights of PK-12 public school administrators since the Supreme Court decision in Garcetti v. Ceballos (2006).The study analyzed 25 federal court cases regarding the First Amendment speech rights of PK-12 public school administrators from June 1, 2006 through December 31, 2013. In these cases, the federal courts applied various legal analyses from Supreme Court precedents. In 14 of the 25 cases, the federal courts explicitly applied the Garcetti pursuant to duty test. In three of the cases, the federal courts partially applied Garcetti; however, these courts also based their decisions on other Supreme Court precedents. As for the eight other cases, the federal courts applied other Supreme Court precedents (i.e. Pickering, Connick, and/or Mt. Healthy) in four of them. In the other four of these eight cases, the courts applied only the elements needed to establish a prima facie case. This study indicates that the nation's federal courts are developing more nuanced interpretations of the pursuant to duty test established in the Supreme Court decision in Garcetti v. Ceballos (2006).