ST. CHARLES, Mo. (CN) - A state lawmaker sued his school district, claiming it fired him from his job as a tenured teacher because he's a Republican.
Bryan Spencer sued the Francis Howell School District and its School Board, in St. Charles County Court.
Spencer claims he was fired on April Fools Day this year after he was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives, last November.
"Spencer's termination violated his rights of political speech and association protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because it was the result of retaliation against Spencer for holding political views and political associations disfavored by a majority of the Board of Education," the complaint states.
Spencer says he was a "permanent teacher," having worked in the school district since 1990.
He claims he applied for, and was denied, unpaid leave of absence from teaching last September. He did this to comply with a Missouri Constitution requirement that prohibits elected representatives from holding any other lucrative employment.
Spencer claims that in the 5 years before his request for unpaid leave was denied, his school district granted such leave to 12 other teachers.
One of those requests, Spencer claims, was for a leave of absence for more than 12 years, to the president of Missouri's National Education Association.
"Spencer's service as Missouri state representative is 'good cause' for unpaid leave from his teaching duties at the defendant Francis Howell School District, because Spencer has a well-established important constitutionally protected interest in seeking and holding government office," the complaint states.
The school district claimed that granting unpaid leave would violate the state constitution because Spencer would qualify for a higher salary when he returns, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
The school district also claimed that teachers on leave can participate in school benefits programs at their own cost, which is a lucrative benefit, according to the Post-Dispatch.
But Spencer claims the district's decision to fire him was based on three things: excessive and unreasonable absence from performance of duty; willful and persistent violations of or of failure to obey the laws of the state and regulations of the Board of Education; and breach of contract.
Spencer calls his ouster "arbitrary, capricious, and without support of the facts."
He seeks an injunction granting him unpaid leave of absence and requiring the school district to return him to his permanent teacher status. He also seeks punitive damages for constitutional violations.
He is represented by Robert Herman, with Schwartz, Herman & Davidson.
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