Fired Teacher Says He Can Use N-Word, Too
AKRON, Ohio (CN) - A high school music teacher claims in court that the Akron school district violated the Equal Protection Clause when it fired him after he posted Facebook messages about "children 'from the ghetto'" and included the n-word.
David Spondike sued the Akron City School District Board of Education in Summit County Common Pleas Court, alleging wrongful termination and violation of the Equal Protection Clause.
Spondike says he has taught music in the Akron School District since 1998, and was granted tenure in the 2003-04 school year.
Spondike says he received a "Resolution of Intention to Consider Termination" in December 2013, a document that included the following statements:
"1. On or about October 27, 2013 and October 28, 2013 David Spondike allegedly posted statements containing inflammatory, derogatory and racial comments referencing children 'from the ghetto' trick-or-treating in his neighborhood. His posting goes on to state that they 'can take [their] nigger-asses back where it came from' ... 'niggers, stay out!'
"2. Additional postings were subsequently published by David Spondike indicating that he 'hear[s] the word [nigger] more than 25 times a day in public school, where it is used thousands of times every day, only by black people' ... [and] 'If you want to go after racists, go after racists. If you want to be a language policeman, I suggest you find yourself in a George Orwell novel. When I try to get the teenagers in my school to stop using the word nigger, I only get laughed at.'
"Another statement David Spondike posted on his Facebook page states, '[i]f one race can use a word to signify a belonging and another race is forbidden to use it for fear of being called a racist, then those who support such a culture are guilty of its demise. If you are white, red, brown, black, yellow, purple, or green, and you piss on the telephone pole in front of my house in broad daylight in front of young children, just be glad I don't call you something worse.'"
According to Spondike, the termination letter came nearly two months after He was placed on administrative leave, on October 28, 2013.
Spondike responded to Courthouse News's request for more information on the case via email, saying that he has "written a 62,000 word manuscript detailing this experience."
He claims the Facebook postings were leaked to a media outlet without his knowledge or permission, and that the school has intentionally misquoted him.
The complaint states that the postings were made in response to an incident in which "a male African-American teenager who does not live in Spondike's neighborhood and was not an APS student of Spondike, exposed his penis and urinated on a telephone pole on Spondike's property in broad daylight, during Halloween trick or treating hours."
The complaint then quotes the initial Facebook post in its entirety: "I don't mind if you come to my neighborhood from the ghetto for trick-or-treat. But when you whip out your teeny dicks and piss on the telephone pole in front of my front yard and a bunch of preschoolers and toddlers, you can take your nigger-ass back where it came from. I don't have anything against anyone of color, but niggers, stay out!"
The complaint quotes another Facebook post: "'I welcome people who come from dangerous neighborhoods to mine, so their children can safely trick-or-treat. I feel sorry that they feel they need to do so, but they have been coming here for years. But if you are going to come here and piss on a telephone pole in front of toddlers and preschoolers, you are CRIMINAL and are not welcomed in my neighborhood and you should not be welcomed in your own! THAT IS WHY YOU HAVE COME TO MINE TO TRICK-OR-TREAT, Do not treat my neighborhood like you do your own! I HAVE THE RIGHT NOT TO BE LIKE YOU!!!'"
Spondike claims the school district omitted several lines from his post concerning racism, specifically, that "Racism is racism and to allow one race to use a word and not another is racist. What I said was absolutely not racist by any stretch of the imagination."
In his email to Courthouse News, Spondike wrote: "I have always made it a personal policy to be open, honest, and responsible for my public comments. I have always kept my social media public and have always used my real name. I have NEVER asked a student to be my friend on Facebook, but I have accepted friendship requests from students, former students, and their parents."
In his complaint Spondike says he and the Board of Education went to arbitration, and in June this year the arbitrator supported the district's decision to fire him - that his "conduct by a preponderance of evidence violated Akron City Schools Professional Staff Conduct/Reasonability under 3210 by the use of vulgar, profane or other disrespectful or racist language."
The Board of Education terminated Spondike's contract days later, on June 16.
Spondike claims" "APS and the Board have adopted policies based on race as it relates to the use of certain words and language within APS by its teachers, administrators, staff and students.
"Such differentiation in treatment and discipline based on race is an unconstitutional violation of the equal protection clause of both the Ohio and U.S. Constitutions."
Spondike seeks reinstatement, back pay and a declaratory judgment ruling the Board's decision to terminate him as unlawful.
He is represented by Kevin Breen of Fairlawn, Ohio.
The school district said in an email that Spondike had never been disciplined for Facebook postings before the incidents in question, and that it followed standard protocol in placing him on leave during the investigation.