In First Amendment case, Ninth Circuit protects statements made in teaching or academic writing

Demers v. Austin is a new case regarding the First Amendment rights of teachers and professors employed in public schools and universities.  The courts have long held that public employees do not give up their First Amendment rights by entering the public service.  However, in 2006, the United States Supreme Court held in Garcetti v. Ceballos that when public employees make statements “pursuant to their official duties,” the Constitution does not protect them from employer disciplinary actions. 

In Demers v. Austin, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals clarified that the Garcetti v. Ceballos rule does not apply to teaching and academic writing.  The First Amendment protects an academic employee against discipline by a public employer for making statements in teaching or academic writing, even though such statements are made in the course of the employee’s official duties. 

The Ninth Circuit stated:  “Teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding; otherwise our civilization will stagnate and die.”

By Anne Yen | September 9, 2013

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