ATLANTA (CN) – A school bus driver claims the school district fired her because she posted a link to a newspaper article about the district’s spending on her Facebook page. The former driver, a 7-year employee, says the Buford City School District violated her constitutional rights by firing her for acts she took as a private citizen.
In her federal complaint, Threlkeld says the district retaliated by firing her for posting the link to an article in “The Gwinnett Daily Post.” The link also led to Post readers’ comments, according to the complaint.
The article, which originally was posted on the newspaper website, reported that the school district spent $632,000 to install artificial turf at Buford High School’s football and practice fields. Readers posted comments on the newspaper website that “criticized the Buford City School District for spending money for artificial turf when it was laying off teachers and staff,” the complaint states.
Threlkeld, who says she “agreed with the comments posted online questioning the spending priorities of the Buford City School District,” posted a link to the article and comments on her Facebook page under the topic, “Today’s humor.”
The next day, Threlkeld says, she was summoned to the superintendent’s office, where defendant Superintendent Geye Hamby showed her a printout of her Facebook page with the link to the newspaper article. Co-defendant Brenda Brown, the district’s director of transportation, was there too, Threlkeld says.
Threlkeld says the principal “criticized plaintiff for her Facebook post; said that plaintiff had humiliated him, the Buford City School District administration and its entire board; demanded to know how plaintiff had found out about the article in ‘The Gwinnett Post’; said that plaintiff had put a big target on her back; suggested that her job was in jeopardy; and asked plaintiff to remove the link on her Facebook profile. Defendant Brown also stated that maybe plaintiff did not need a Facebook account.”
Threlkeld says she complied with their request.
But on May 25 she was fired and was told in a letter that “we no longer have a position for you as of the end of the 2009/2010 school year.”
Threlkeld says she was fired in retaliation for exercising constitutionally protected behavior, and says that the district hired new school bus drivers for the next school year. She claims that her posting of the link to the newspaper article was a “substantial, motivating and determinative factor in defendants’ decision to terminate plaintiff.”
Threlkeld seeks reinstatement, lost wages, punitive damages and a protective injunction. She is represented by George Weaver with Hollberg & Weaver.