BHPK partner Greg Pagnini, with Lenny Kesten serving as co-counsel, prevailed on a motion for summary judgment in federal court, obtaining dismissal of a First Amendment retaliation claim filed by a former school teacher. At issue were six social media memes posted on TikTok by the plaintiff containing themes of homophobia, transphobia, and racism.
Following a storm of controversy in the community and after conducting an investigation, the Hanover Public School District terminated the plaintiff, noting that her continued employment in light of the social media posts would have a significantly negative impact on learning at the high school.
The court agreed. While taking into consideration the time, place, and manner of the plaintiff’s speech — having been posted on a private TikTok account and prior to her hire — the court held that the District had a legitimate government interest in terminating her employment due to its reasonably related concerns that the posts were, and would continue to be, a disruption to student learning. Further, the court found that the posts reflected an intolerance to groups of people who were represented among both staff and the student body, which undermined the District’s goal of ensuring a safe learning environment and respect for human differences. The termination was upheld and the retaliation claim rejected.
Congratulations to the BHPK team on its victory.