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Saturday, March 2, 2024 | Back issues
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Race Riot Facebook Post Cost Guard Her Job

CAMDEN, N.J. (CN) - Complaining on Facebook that "another black thug" killed a cop cost a high school security guard her job, she claims in Federal Court.

Mary Czaplinski says she has been a security guard at Vineland School District for 12 years but will be terminated effective March 27 based entirely on the status she posted to Facebook earlier this month.

"Praying hard for the Philly cop shot today by another black thug - may[be] all white people should start riots and protests and scare the hell out of them," the post said, as quoted in Czaplinski's March 23 federal complaint (brackets in original).

Czaplinski posted the status on March 5, 2015, after seeing a news report about the death that day of Philadelphia police officer Robert Wilson III.

Wilson was killed while trying "to thwart a robbery at a video game store," Czaplinski says, adding that "both Wilson and his assailants were black."

Noting that Vineland schools were not even open on the day of her post because of snow, Czaplinski says she made the post "on her own time and on her private Facebook page."

"The post did not mention her position with the school district," according to the complaint. "The post was meant as her comment on a significant public issue, and expressed her frustration at the racial polarization that has characterized the current national debate over police conduct."

On March 23, the same day Czaplinski filed suit, the U.S. Department of Justice slammed Philadelphia for its marked increase in police shootings and "significant strife" between officers and those they are supposed to protect.

That report came on the heels of a scathing report against Ferguson, Mo., where a grand jury refused to indict Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old on Aug. 9, 2014.

A series of incidents in New York City have kept tensions high there as well.

The city is still reeling both from a grand jury's decision not to indict Staten Island police officer Daniel Pantaleo for a July 17, 2014, fatal chokehold on Eric Garner, and the criminal charges pending against rookie NYPD officer Peter Liang over his Nov. 20, 2014, fatal shooting of 28-year-old Akai Gurley in a Brooklyn housing project.

A month after that shooting, NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were executed while they sat in their patrol car in Brooklyn.

Czaplinski says her bosses caught wind of her Facebook rant a day on March 6, another snow day, having received an email from "Save VBOE" that asked: "What type of employee [sic] do you have posting 'black thugs' comments? Employing racist security guards is trouble. Diversity matters regardless of race. Very troubling."

Over the weekend, the district allegedly put Czaplinski on administrative leave because of "something to do with social media."

Czaplinski says she agreed to an expedited hearing on the charge against her - "conduct unbecoming a public employee" - because she was "unaware that the district was contemplating firing her."

It was at the March 12 hearing, which Czaplinski attended with union representation but without counsel, that she allegedly first learned that the charge stemmed from her post about the Philadelphia police officer's murder, according to the complaint

Czaplinski says the district called her after the hearing and that she refused their request to retire.

The termination letter was sent the next day.

Claiming that the district is trampling her First Amendment rights, Czaplinski says her "comment had no effect on the Vineland schools or on Czaplinski's ability to do her job."

"At the time it terminated Czaplinski, the district had no basis to believe that Czaplinski's post in any way affected her job performance, her decision-making ability, her relationship with students or other staff, or the operations of the Vineland schools," the lawsuit states.

Czaplinski wants her job back, along with damages, back pay and benefits.

She is represented by Frank Corrado withy Barry, Corrado & Grassi PC in Wildwood, N.J.

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