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Teacher Fears Losing Job Over Facebook Post

BATON ROUGE (CN) - A middle school teacher in Louisiana claims in a lawsuit that she's been harassed and has lived in fear of losing her job after sharing a Facebook post critical of the Common Core teaching method.

Deborah Vailes is a teacher at the Pineville Junior High School in the Rapides Parish School District.

Pineville Junior High is one of many schools in 43 states that have adopted Common Core State Standards and, in return, receives financing from the U.S. Department of Education.

Common Core has been widely criticized for its seemingly illogical math and language arts teaching practices, the lawsuit says.

"Heartbreaking pictures of little girls anguished, with tears in their eyes, trying to complete seemingly illogical Common Core math assignments that even the child's parents cannot understand have surfaced widely in the media," the lawsuit says.

Before school on September 14, 2013, Vailes viewed such a picture on Facebook, and shared in on her own Facebook page.

At 1 pm that day, Vailes says she received her first ever written reprimand when the principal of the school, Dr. Dana Nolan, became aware of the photo on the social media site, and said it made Vailes appear "anti-Common Core."

Dr. Dana Nolan reportedly told Vailes: "You work for the public, you do not have an opinion. You are not to discuss your opinion in any way in public."

Upon receiving the written reprimand, "plaintiff felt violated, but complied" by deleting the post because she was afraid of losing her job, her lawsuit says.

Meanwhile, an unrelated investigation into the school board's allegedly unlawful grading practices resulted in media interviews with 12 teachers who asked to remain anonymous because they were afraid of being fired for talking to the media.

The interviews resulted in information about plaintiff being reprimanded for posting her opinion about Common Core on her Facebook page.

"On October 4, 2014, local media reported that 'a teacher got written up for stating her opinion of Common Core on Facebook.'"

On October 8, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jinal heard of the school board's policies and issued an executive order.

The order states, in part: "As part of the ongoing discussion among state and local education officials, teachers, parents and stakeholders regarding classroom curriculum and testing, and as part of the larger discussion of the quality of Louisiana's educational system, legal guarantees afforded to all citizens shall be maintained and provided to teachers."

Because of the executive order, plaintiff is frequently harassed at work and fears for her job, the lawsuit says.

Vailes says administrators now visit her classroom with frequency, and that her job title has been changed to teacher of emotionally disturbed students. She says based on what her colleagues have told her, that position will be dissolved by the end of the year and she will be let go.

"Plaintiff, who prior to re-posting the information pertaining to Common Core on her Facebook page used to have a stellar personal file, now has received three additional documented conferences from Defendant Dana Nolan for petty reasons motivated by retaliation for plaintiff," Vailes' lawsuit says.

Vailes fears the loss of her job if she were to post anything on Facebook again or speak out about a matter of public concern.

Public employees do not surrender their First Amendment rights by reason of their employment. The First Amendment protects a public employee's right to speak as a citizen addressing matters of public concern."

Vailes seeks damages for violations of Freedom of Speech and equal protection rights.

She is represented by Theodore Vicknair of the Thomas More Law Center in Alexandria, La.

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