A former high school teacher has filed a lawsuit claiming that she was fired because she advised a club that placed a gay pride flag and photos of several prominent gay and lesbian individuals in a school display case.
The exhibit at issue was displayed at Corunna high school in a small town in central Michigan in 2009, reports WJRT-TV. It was in celebration of LGBT awareness month.
The teacher, Brook Johnson, filed her lawsuit in federal court in Flint against the Corunna Public Schools as well as a handful of school officials. She claims violations of her First Amendment rights.
The showcase created a stir locally. The Corunna school board deemed it out of line with local values and voted to remove it, according to CBS Detroit. The school board later opted to resurrect the LGBT awareness exhibit after the American Civil Liberties Union got involved.
The next year, Johnson alleges, school officials began looking for reasons to sack her.
“I had seven observations in a three month period and they got worse and worse, they would find different things that I was not doing right,” Johnson told WJRT.
Negative evaluations piled up, and the school district did not renew her contract in 2011. Johnson charges that her support for the diversity group was the real reason for her dismissal.
“They wanted to punish her for exercising her First Amendment rights. And because they disagreed with her, they were going to drive her out,” said Jonathan Marko, Johnson’s attorney, according to Michigan Radio. “And that’s what the ultimately did and she was ultimately fired,”
“We all have a right to voice our opinion without being retaliated based on our speech,” Marko, added, according to WJRT.
The school district declined to comment on the lawsuit, according to CBS Detroit.
Michigan law does not provide a basis for people who want to bring lawsuits related to sexuality, notes Michigan Radio. Johnson’s lawsuit relies exclusively on federal claims, including an alleged violation of the Equal Protection Clause in addition to the First Amendment claim.
Johnson, who now openly identifies herself as a lesbian, says she did not disclose her sexuality while she was a teacher at Corunna High School.
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