Teacher Fired for Conservative Social Media Posts Appeal

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced that a federal appellate oral argument is set for Tuesday, April 2 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in the case filed on behalf of Kari MacRae, a Massachusetts high school teacher who was fired in retaliation for posts on social media that predated her employment at Hanover High School (MacRae v. Matthew Mattos and Matthew A. Ferron (No. 21-cv-11917, 23-1817)).

The lawsuit was filed in November 2021, asserting a claim for First Amendment retaliation.

MacRae, who was hired as a Hanover High School teacher on August 31, 2021, was fired over several TikTok posts that were made months prior to her hiring at the school. MacRae, who in May of 2021 was elected to the Bourne School Committee, made the posts in her personal capacity as a citizen and candidate for public office.

On May 18, 2021, as part of her campaign for school committee member, MacRae posted a TikTok video which stated, in part:

So pretty much the reason I ran for school board and the reason I’m taking on this responsibility is to ensure that students, at least in our town, are not being taught critical race theory. That they’re not being taught that the country was built on racism. So they’re not being taught that they can choose whether or not they want to be a girl or a boy.  It’s one thing to include and it’s one thing to be inclusive. And it’s one thing to educate everybody about everything. It’s completely another thing to push your agenda. And, with me on the school board, that won’t happen in our town.

Judicial Watch points out in its brief:

Hanover Public Schools fired MacRae because of political speech she posted online months before she even became employed at Hanover High School. In addition, the speech did not concern Hanover Public Schools as she did not live in Hanover and was campaigning for a school committee position in a district 45 minutes away. Nor did any student, parent, or teacher at Hanover Public Schools raise issues about MacRae continuing to teach at Hanover High School. Hanover Public Schools’ sole excuse for firing MacRae was that the school administrators believed that if she continued teaching at the high school, her unrelated, preemployment speech would cause a disruption.

The District Court found in favor of the school district. It concluded that Hanover Public Schools’ prediction of disruption was reasonable.

Judicial Watch’s brief argues:

MacRae challenges the ruling on four grounds. First, the First Amendment employment retaliation standard does not apply to unrelated, preemployment speech. Second, a mere prediction of disruption is insufficient to outweigh an employee’s interest in engaging in political speech. Third, the reasonableness of that prediction is a question for a jury and is not appropriate for summary judgment. Fourth, the District Court incorrectly found that Hanover Public Schools’ prediction of disruption was reasonable. The District Court’s ruling should be reversed, and the case should be remanded.

The hearing will be held:

Date: Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Time: 9:30 a.m. ET

Location: En Banc Courtroom at Moakley Courthouse, 7th Floor

1 Courthouse Way

Boston, MA 02210

Audio of the hearing will be available here.

(In July 2022, Judicial Watch successfully settled a civil right lawsuit on behalf of its client David Flynn, who was removed from his position as head football coach after exercising his right as a parent-citizen to raise concerns about critical race theory and Black Lives Matter propaganda in his daughter’s seventh-grade history class.)

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