The ACLU of Louisiana filed a lawsuit today against the Lafayette Parish School Board, the Principal of Comeaux High School, and the Superintendent of Schools in defense of the First Amendment. Plaintiff Heather Weathers is a local New Orleans artist who briefly worked as an art teacher in Lafayette after Katrina. The school district fired her when officials learned of her art.
"The right of free speech is a bedrock principle of our free and democratic society,? said Katie Schwartzmann, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Louisiana. "The First Amendment protects the rights of all citizens to engage in expressive activity, and that right is not lost by virtue of one's employment.?
Weathers' work is political and social satire, with an emphasis on women's rights and feminism. She is a longtime educator, having worked in New York and in New Orleans as an art teacher. The principal of Comeaux High School terminated her employment when he discovered her web site.
Schwartzmann went on to say, "Teachers do not cease to be citizens upon being hired as teachers. Even if school officials find Weathers' speech offensive, they do not have the ability to censor it. The fact that she was fired for speech that was off of school grounds and unrelated to her job is extremely troubling, and could have far-reaching implications for the rights of employees to exercise their constitutional rights."
ACLU staff attorney Katie Schwartzmann and ACLU cooperating attorney David Benoit will represent the plaintiff in the lawsuit.
To see complaint, go to: WeathersComplaint.pdf