Blog Was Free Speech,|Teacher Tells Bosses


     PHILADELPHIA (CN) – A tenured high school English teacher who used her blog to criticize students, parents and her bosses – but not by name – claims in court that her school district plans to fire her today in retaliation for her constitutionally protected speech.



     Natalie Munroe sued the Central Bucks School District, its Superintendent Robert Laws and Central Bucks High School East Principal Abram Lucabaugh, in Federal Court.
     Munroe says she began teaching at Central Bucks East H.S. in 2006 and received tenure in 2010. She created her blog, titled “Where are we going, and why are we in this handbasket?” in August 2009.
     She claims she “intended for the blog to be anonymous, except as to her friends who she invited to be blog ‘followers.’ Thus, she blogged under the name ‘Natalie M’ and she avoided making any reference to the locations where she lived and worked, the names of her students, and the name of the school where she taught.”
     In the blog, Munroe called some students “frightfully dim,” “whiny” and “utterly loathsome,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
     Munroe also lamented what she perceived as “canned” report-card comments, expressing a desire for alternatives such as “dresses like a streetwalker,” according to the Inquirer report.
     In her complaint, Munroe she was suspended after Principal Lucabaugh confronted her about the blog. She claims that her blog generated national media interest, and that she defended herself in interviews for television and print.
     “In each appearance and interview, Munroe defended her blog entries, refused to apologize for the comments made on her blog, and attempted to focus attention on the education debate, pointing out that school administrators and government official [sic] often fail to support teachers, choosing instead to placate unreasonable parents and unmotivated students, and thereby undermining the educational system,” she says in her complaint.
     Munroe claims that while she was blogging, the school district did not have a policy restricting an employee’s ability to maintain a blog.
     She claims she has been savaged in performance evaluations in retaliation for exercising free speech, and that administrators targeted her for “ridiculous and untrue criticism at every opportunity.”
     She claims this criticism flies in the face of a prior assessment of her teaching chops, and cites a letter of recommendation in which the high school principal allegedly wrote that he was “honored” to work with her, and called her “a woman of utmost integrity, character, and intelligence” and “a consummate educator with a sparkling future.”
     Munroe says she has been notified that the school district plans to recommend terminating her employment contract when the school board meets today (Tuesday).
     She seeks reinstatement, back pay, front pay and punitive damages for civil rights violations, emotional distress and damage to her reputation.
     She is represented by Stanley Cheiken, of Jenkintown, Pa.

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