On Saturday, I posted that the government can’t fire an employee without due process. That is, a government entity has to follow certain steps before terminating the employment of their employees. Many of you disagreed, but I will share with you why I feel that this is so important:
There is a teacher I know who was terminated in violation of this law. Gerry Buell had been teaching for Lake County schools for over 22 years. He was selected as the county teacher of the year. Just a few months later, he posted on his private Facebook page that he was opposed to gay marriage.
On his personal Facebook account, outside of school time, Buell posted a reaction to New York’s passage of homosexual ‘marriage’ saying he “almost threw up.” He also referred to homosexual unions as sinful and referred to it as part of a “cesspool” of behaviors. The local media got ahold of it.
Just for the record, this is his exact comment:
I’m watching the news, eating dinner when the story about New York okaying same-sex unions came on and I almost threw up. Then they showed two guys kissing after their announcement. If they want to call it a union, go ahead. But don’t insult a man and woman’s marriage by throwing it in the same cesspool of whatever. God will not be mocked. When did this sin become acceptable?
By the way, if one doesn’t like the most recently posted opinion based on biblical principles and God’s laws, then go ahead and unfriend me. I’ll miss you like I miss my kidney stone from 1994. And I will never accept it because God will never accept it. Romans chapter one.
“It was my own personal comment on my own personal time on my own personal computer in my own personal house, exercising what I believed as a social studies teacher to be my First Amendment rights,” he said.
He was 100% correct, but that didn’t matter to the Lake County school system. Some parents filed a complaint with the school superintendent. Shortly afterwards, he was suspended. Two days after being suspended, he was fired for “violating his professional ethics.”
“We took the allegations seriously,” said Chris Patton, a communication officer with Lake County Schools. “All teachers are bound by a code of special ethics (and) this is a code ethics violation investigation.”
According to the school system, what Buell wrote on his private account was disturbing. They claimed that they were especially concerned that gay students at the school might be frightened or intimidated walking into his classroom. Patton also disputed the notion that Buell’s Facebook account is private.
“He has more than 700 friends,” Patton said. “How private is that – really? Social media can be troubling if you don’t respect it and know that just because you think you are in a private realm – it’s not private.”
So, according to the Lake County, Florida school system, whether or not a government employee has the right to free speech depends on how many people are listening.
Patton said the school system has an obligation to take the comments seriously. He said Buell will not be allowed back in the classroom “until we do all the interviews and do a thorough job of looking at everything – past or previous writings.”
To accomplish that, he said people have been sending the school system screenshots of Buell’s Facebook page.
“Just because you think it’s private, other people are viewing it,” Patton said, noting that the teacher’s Facebook page also contained numerous Bible passages.
Buell hired a lawyer, who sent a notice of intent to file suit for terminating him in violation of his First and Fifth Amendment rights. The school caved in. If government employees were “at will,” that never would have worked.
I want you to ask yourselves- just who in government service needs to have their Constitutional rights protected? In these days of school boards shutting down discussion and declaring that parents are terrorists, do you think that leftist teachers have any fear of being fired? Or do you think it is conservative teachers?
I myself was fired from that same exact school. In October of 2016, we were told to discuss the gay and lesbian lifestyle* and its benefits in the classroom. Click on the link to see the actual handout we were given. I refused. Less than a month later, I was attacked in my classroom by a violent student.
I had worked for that school for exactly one week less than a year, so I was still on “probation.” I could be fired for any reason. I was placed on paid leave. Two months later, the school system told me that, if I resigned, they would not pursue any other actions and would simply tell future employers that I had resigned. The union wanted me to fight. I didn’t think the job was worth fighting for, so I quit.
A month later, the school system tried to have my teaching license revoked by pressing formal charges with the state. Had they been successful, my medical license would also have been revoked. They accused me of attacking the student and even tried insinuating that I was a pervert that was attracted to the teenaged girls in my class.
I wound up spending several thousand dollars on a lawyer, got a hearing, and won my case. Throughout the process, the school hid evidence, manufactured evidence, and played every dirty trick they could. My attorney was livid. After the administrative hearing was over, he wrote a letter to the director of Florida’s DOE, telling them that he had never seen the kind of outrageous behavior from a school system before.
Be careful what you wish for. Remove constitutional protection from government jobs, and the left will be free to eliminate the conservative minority.
* Note that I mentioned this in 2016. This grooming thing has been going on since before Trump was elected. Note also that the CRT stuff has been brewing since at least 2020. I mean to say that both grooming and CRT have been in our schools for at least a decade, perhaps longer.
If it weren’t for the constitutional protections that government employees have, the only voices our children would be hearing are the ones grooming them for the left. It’s important.
Anonymous · July 26, 2022 at 7:56 am
First of all, I’d like to thank you for both your military and educational service.
And thanks for fleshing this situation out for your readers. All too often, outsiders only see the things they disagree with, and don’t see the reasoning or rationales behind certain things, how they can be applied to both sides as was done here. I didn’t realize that was how that system works.
Anonymous · July 26, 2022 at 10:01 am
Back when I worked at an office for the US federal government, we hired a scammer who worked on this principal. She checked all the right boxes and gave a decent showing at the interview (so I’m told), but when she actually got hired she just did her own thing. It wasn’t overly long before they suspended her; a couple months perhaps. But it was many months or over a year before they actually managed to fire her.
And all that time she was making a pretty decent salary while not having to work at all.
Steve · July 26, 2022 at 11:04 am
The problem is that a right is a right. Governments are instituted to secure rights. That’s the whole point.
You are focusing on the wrong thing. It is irrelevant that government is thought to be a party to the infringement of a right. The question is whether there IS an infringement.
If one man has an enforceable right to suspension with pay, then all men do. That’s the whole idea of a right. Furthermore, government is obligated to secure that right. Which leads to the obvious conclusion — that government employment is not a right at all, but merely a privilege, just as it is for everyone else.
Divemedic · July 26, 2022 at 2:06 pm
It isn’t that you have a right to be suspended with pay. You, and everyone else, has the right to due process. If the government wants to fine you, or take anything else from you, you have the right to face that government in a legal proceeding.
That doesn’t change if you are an employee of that same government. You still have that right.
Steve · July 26, 2022 at 3:03 pm
So what are they “taking” that a private employer is not also “taking”? Why is it that in one case, “due process” is a paid vacation, the other is just being escorted out the building; stop by tomorrow to pick up the stuff they cleaned out of your desk?
Rights are granted by God, or by dint of your being human, or whatever. Whatever criteria you use, everyone has those same rights. If some people are more equal than others, then that’s privilege.
Divemedic · July 26, 2022 at 5:31 pm
For example, Facebook can control what you say, because they are a private entity. The government cannot.
That is a small, but very important difference. As to what they are taking, I will let the Supreme Court explain, directly from the Loudermill decision:
The Due Process Clause provides that the substantive rights of life, liberty, and property cannot be deprived except pursuant to constitutionally adequate procedures. The categories of substance and procedure are distinct. “Property” cannot be defined by the procedures provided for its deprivation. Pp. 470 U. S. 538-541.
The principle that, under the Due Process Clause, an individual must be given an opportunity for a hearing before he is deprived of any significant property interest requires “some kind of hearing” prior to the discharge of an employee who has a constitutionally protected property interest in his employment. The need for some form of pretermination hearing is evident from a balancing of the competing interests at stake: the private interest in retaining employment, the governmental interests in expeditious removal of unsatisfactory employees and the avoidance of administrative burdens, and the risk of an erroneous termination.
Respondents’ federal constitutional claim depends on their having had a property right in continued employment. Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U. S. 564, 408 U. S. 576-578 (1972); Reagan v. United States, 182 U. S. 419, 182 U. S. 425 (1901). If they did, the State could not deprive them of this property without due process. See Memphis Light, Gas & Water Div. v. Craft, 436 U. S. 1, 436 U. S. 11-12 (1978); Goss v. Lopez, 419 U. S. 565, 419 U. S. 573-574 (1975).
Property interests are not created by the Constitution, “they are created, and their dimensions are defined, by existing rules or understandings that stem from an independent source, such as state law. . . .” Board of Regents v. Roth, supra, at 408 U. S. 577. See also Paul v. Davis, 424 U. S. 693, 424 U. S. 709 (1976). The Ohio statute plainly creates such an interest. Respondents were “classified civil service employees,” Ohio Rev.Code Ann. § 124.11 (1984), entitled to retain their positions “during good behavior and efficient service,” who could not be dismissed “except . . . for . . . misfeasance, malfeasance, or nonfeasance in office,” § 124.34. The statute plainly supports the conclusion, reached by both lower courts, that respondents possessed property rights in continued employment. Indeed, this question does not seem to have been disputed
The case then goes on to a lengthy discussion of what constitutes a property interest in continued employment.
EN2 SS · July 26, 2022 at 1:01 pm
And for every one like you, I give you this;
Divemedic · July 26, 2022 at 2:04 pm
I have never been one to say that the end justifies the means. I will always support the Constitution. Not some of the times. No just when following it supports my desired outcome. All of the time.
The constitution is, and always has been, a restriction on the actions that may be taken by the law against its people.
If you wanted to argue that the Federal government wasn’t supposed to have the powers that it does, and that we should eliminate entire Federal agencies, I would support that 100%. Get rid of the ATF? OK. It never should have existed in the first place. The DOE? No problem. Schools and education are a state issue. HUD? OK. Name the agency, and I will probably agree with you that it shouldn’t exist.
What I cannot, and will not EVER support is using the law to target individuals and taking action against them in violation of the same Constitution that grants the law its powers in the first place, especially without due process. Everyone is entitled to defend themselves under the law.
EN2 SS · July 26, 2022 at 4:50 pm
But there has to be a mechanism to remove useless employees, currently there is not one. I haven’t found the article yet, about the hundreds of fed employees that they aren’t even trying to fire, they just have to report to a room each day and get paid to sit there, some for years now. Being a citizen of Texas, I don’t have a right to keep my job, why should a federal grifter have what I don’t? But without it, only the ones they head suckers want will be hired? That is already in effect. IMHO, you have conflated a Right in the Constitution, that is not there, firing a person isn’t taking any rights in the Constitution away. It isn’t the same as taking your property.
Divemedic · July 26, 2022 at 5:34 pm
Again, there is a mechanism for removing employees. That isn’t and never has been in question. The fact that no one is attempting to avail themselves of this mechanism with reference to employees who aren’t performing is a different question, and one that I won’t address on this blog. It would be a waste of time.
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