School Board Member Loses Retaliation Claims

     (CN) – The First Amendment does not protect a school board member from being stripped of his vice presidency for criticizing the district superintendent, the 9th Circuit ruled, because it “does not … immunize him from the political fallout of what he says.”

     Members of the Bethel District School Board voted to remove Ken Blair as vice president “because of his relentless criticism of the school district’s superintendent,” the ruling states.
     Blair sued, claiming he was retaliated against for exercising his First Amendment rights to free speech and petition.
     A federal judge ruled against him, concluding that the board’s action did not prevent him from continuing to speak out, vote his conscience or serve his constituents as a board member.
     On appeal, a three-judge panel in Seattle agreed.
     “Disagreement is endemic to politics, and naturally plays out in how votes are cast,” wrote U.S. District Judge Franklin Burgess, who participated in the panel ruling.
     “[T]he First Amendment doesn’t shield public figures from the give-and-take of the political process.”

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