Federal News Roundup
The U.S. Supreme Court declined last week to review a case in which a federal appellate court ruled that a school board in Arkansas violated the First Amendment rights of a high-school principal by firing him because of remarks he made at a board meeting.
The case, Harrison School District No. 1 v. Lewis (Case No. 86-1618), stemmed from a May 1981 decision by the Boone County school board to transfer Judy Lewis, a high-school English teacher and local teachers'-union official, to a junior high school. Bill Lewis, Ms. Lewis's husband and the principal of her school, criticized the decision during the board meeting.
A short while later, the board informed Mr. Lewis that his contract would not be renewed for the upcoming school year because his remarks had made it impossible for him and the district's superintendent to maintain "a harmonious administrative relationship.'' Mr. Lewis then filed suit in U.S. District Court, arguing that, because the question of his wife's transfer was a matter of public concern, his speech was protected under the First Amendment.
The jury that heard the case advised the district judge to rule for Mr. Lewis and to grant him $25,348 in lost wages and $5,000 in damages for the violation of his right to free speech. The judge, however, rejected the jury's advice and ruled for the district.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit overturned the ruling last November.