In Johnson v. Poway Unified School District, (9th Cir., Sept. 13, 2011), the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected claims by a high school calculus teacher that his California school district violated his free speech rights, as well as the Establishment Clause and Equal Protection clause, when it required him to remove large banners he had posted in his classroom that carried historic and patriotic slogans, all mentioning God or the Creator. Discussing the free speech claim, the court said, in part:
We consider whether a public school district infringes the First Amendment liberties of one of its teachers when it orders him not to use his public position as a pulpit from which to preach his own views on the role of God in our Nation’s history to the captive students in his mathematics classroom. The answer is clear: it does not.
When Bradley Johnson, a high school calculus teacher, goes to work and performs the duties he is paid to perform, he speaks not as an individual, but as a public employee, and the school district is free to “take legitimate and appropriate steps to ensure that its message is neither garbled nor distorted.”... Just as the Constitution would not protect Johnson were he to decide that he no longer wished to teach math at all, preferring to discuss Shakespeare rather than Newton, it does not permit him to speak as freely at work in his role as a teacher about his views on God, our Nation’s history, or God’s role in our Nation’s history as he might on a sidewalk, in a park, at his dinner table, or in countless other locations.In reaching its conclusion, the 9th Circuit reversed a decision by a California federal district court. (See prior posting.) SF Appeal reports on yesterday's 9th Circuit decision.
UPDATE: In a separate unpublished opinion, the 9th Circuit also rejected the teacher's claims under the California constitution. Johnson v. Poway Unified School District, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 18992 (9th Cir., Sept. 13, 2011).