Public School District Sued by High School Coach for First Amendment Violation
Is objecting to BLM/Critical Race Theory Curriculum forbidden?
David Flynn and his wife expressed their concerns about biased race-based coursework being added to his Dedham Middle School daughter’s seventh-grade Ancient History and World Geography class curriculum. The Flynns believed that the added coursework on politics, race, gender equality, and diversity was biased in favor of a particular point of view on these sensitive subjects and was not suitable for twelve-and thirteen-year olds.
The Flynns raised their concerns about the course curriculum changes to the school superintendent and School Committee members. They did so after getting nowhere with the school principal, who said that the admittedly “controversial content” was critical to teaching students about their “own identity” and “the identity of others.” The principal claimed that the coursework content was being “presented objectively to our students.” That claim was outright false.
For example, the coursework included a black versus white stereotyping cartoon exercise. The Flynns were concerned, according to the Judicial Watch complaint, that the “seventh-grade history teacher was using class materials that labeled all police officers as risks to all black people and all black males as risks to white people.”
As part of her remote learning instruction, the seventh-grade history teacher used a cartoon character of herself wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt. The complaint alleged that the plaintiff and his wife “reasonably interpreted” this t-shirt as “the teacher expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement during class time.”
Black Lives Matter (BLM) was co-founded by a self-admitted “trained Marxist.” BLM wants to abolish the police. The teacher’s promotion of the Black Lives Matter image was anything but objective.
The Flynns’ escalation of their concerns to the school superintendent and School Committee members, as well as communicating with other parents who shared the concerns, not only was an exercise in futility. It backfired.
The Flynns withdrew their kids from the public school system after it became apparent that the school district was not willing to listen to their concerns and try to reach a compromise. The school district’s answer was to remove David Flynn from his head football coaching position, which he had held since 2011, by not renewing Flynn’s contract. The superintendent, high school principal, and high school athletic director released a public statement confirming that Flynn was removed because he had “expressed significant philosophical differences with the direction, goals, and values of the school district.”
The Dedham Public Schools District demonstrated its “values” and the direction it was taking with its selection of Dr. Oneida Fox Roye as its first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, which was announced last fall. Roye tweeted the following last December, which reflects the "values" that she is bringing with her to the Dedham schools: “When people say that they don't have a racist bone in their body, they’re usually saying that they’re not racist. Yet, there is no way that you inherit privilege from birth, learn history in our schools, work in our country, watch television & films, and not be racist.#BIPOC #DEI.”
The Flynns’ “philosophical differences” with the Dedham Public Schools boiled down to not accepting the school district’s equating one’s identity with skin color. They did not want their seventh-grade daughter being indoctrinated that all whites are racists simply because they were born white. They did not want their daughter being taught to value Black Lives Matter as a positive role model when BLM leaders espouse anti-America views, including critical race theory, and BLM members engage in violence.
However, David Flynn’s “philosophical differences” did not affect his work as the high school head football coach. His job did not involve any class material that he refused to teach. David Flynn and his wife simply objected to having the new coursework on politics, race, gender equality, and diversity force-fed to their daughter. The school district could have tried to accommodate the Flynns by excusing their daughter from participating in this portion of the curriculum that was being presented remotely. Alternatively, an elective course could have been created around such coursework. But the school district decided instead that Flynn was too much of a troublemaker in their eyes to keep around. So, they removed Flynn from his coaching job because he dared to express his differences with the school district in the one area that directly affected what his daughter was being taught.
The Dedham Public Schools District crossed over the line in trying to cancel David Flynn. Flynn has a First Amendment right to freely express his “philosophical differences,” particularly on controversial issues of public policy importance such as racial or gender bias that impact what his daughter was being taught. The Supreme Court has ruled in one case that public school teachers do not forfeit their “constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”
Another Supreme Court case involved an African-American teacher who claimed her contract was not renewed because she had complained directly to the school principal about employment policies and practices at the school that she believed were racially discriminatory. The Supreme Court concluded in essence that the First Amendment protects the right of a public employee to bring her complaint to her employer without facing termination for that reason alone. It is ironic that this Supreme Court precedent, which supports David Flynn’s First Amendment complaint against the woke, race-obsessed Dedham Public School District, arose from an African-American’s genuine grievance about racial discrimination.
The Dedham Public School District admitted that David Flynn’s contract was not renewed because he had “expressed significant philosophical differences with the direction, goals, and values of the school district.” No other reason was given. Therefore, as the Judicial Watch complaint alleges, it is clear that Flynn was terminated “in retaliation for his protected speech.” He is entitled to relief for the harm that the school district caused him. But the issues raised by David Flynn's case go far beyond Flynn himself and his mistreatment by the Dedham Public School District.
We don't know exactly how many people are being cancelled like Flynn because of what they have said or written. But we do know that the cancellation pandemic is spinning out of control and that the First Amendment's protections are increasingly vulnerable.