Law & Courts A Washington Roundup

Justices Decline to Review Employee-Retaliation Case

By Andrew Trotter — October 17, 2006 1 min read
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The U.S. Supreme Court declined last week to hear a dispute between the Averill Park, N.Y., school district and its former athletic director, who alleged that the district had infringed his right to free speech.

Louis J. Cioffi III maintained that his job was abolished in retaliation for negative publicity the district received after he uncovered, and later spoke to the press about, alleged serious hazing involving members of the Averill Park High School football team. (“Suit Tying Demotion to Comments On Hazing Allegations Is Reinstated,” April 19, 2006.)

A federal district court said Mr. Cioffi was not entitled to free-speech protection when the school board cut his position—to save money, the board said—because he had spoken in the course of his duties as an employee.

But in April, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, in New York City, said Mr. Cioffi’s comments were protected under the First Amendment because he spoke on an issue of public concern.

The school district petitioned the Supreme Court, citing the high court’s May 30 decision in Garcetti v. Ceballos (Case No. 04-473), which bolstered the position of government employers in similar disputes when the employees speak within the scope of their official duties.

The high court on Oct. 10 declined without comment to hear the appeal in Averill Park Central School District v. Cioffi (Case No. 06-1). The case will now return to the U.S. District Court in Utica, N.Y., for trial.

A version of this article appeared in the October 18, 2006 edition of Education Week

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