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Teacher fired after anti-riot Facebook posts, sues school district

A former teacher who was fired in the summer of 2020 after criticizing BLM filed a lawsuit against the school district alleging that they violated her first amendment rights.

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

A former teacher at Illinois' Palatine High School who was fired in the summer of 2020 after sharing posts on social media criticizing BLM and the riots wrecking havoc on Chicago has filed a lawsuit against the school district and the school board alleging that they violated her first amendment rights.

A complaint was filed on July 15 by Judicial Watch in Chicago Federal Court on behalf of Jeanne Hedgepeth against defendants that include the  Township High School District 211, as well as individual defendants that include the district's superintendent and human resources director, and those who were sitting on the District 211 school board in July 2020, according to the Cook County Record.

Hedgepeth is also filing a separate defamation suit in Cook County against Tim Gowan, a current District 211 school board member and local Black Lives Matter activist. Both cases center around her termination from her position she held at Palatine High School for 20 years.

Hedgepeth was vacationing in Florida in late May of 2020 when riots broke out in Chicago's central business district triggered by George Floyd's death in Minneapolis.

According to the complaint, Hedgepeth posted photos, memes and other comments critical of the looting and rioting in Chicago.

According to the Cook County Record, Hedgepeth posted a photo of herself on a Florida beach with the caption: "I don't want to go home tomorrow. Now that the civil war has begun I want to move."

Hedgepeth also shared a meme saying authorities attempting to stop rioters should "mobilize the septic trucks, put a pressure cannon on em… hose em down… the end." Hedgepeth commented: "You think this would work?"

She also posted more in depth comments on Facebook in June as part of a wide discussion. According to the Cook County Record, those comments stated:

"I find the term 'white privilege' as racist as the 'N' word. You have not walked in my shoes either so do not make assumptions about me and my so called privilege. You think America is racist? Then you have been hoodwinked by the white liberal establishment and race baiters like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Travel the world and go see that every nation has racism and some more than others but few make efforts such as we do to mitigate or eliminate it."

She continued: "Don't you think there is a deeper problem than racism when 50% of murders in America are committed by 13% of the population? Do you think there might be a subtle genocide of black babies when most planned parenthoods are put in poor neighborhoods and that 30% of abortions are black babies. [B]lack women only make up 7% of the US population. The greatest power you have is what you believe about yourself. [W]hat have Democrats, mainstream media and intellectuals in ivory towers been telling the black community to believe about themselves for forty years? Wake up and stop believing them, then things will change."

All comments were posted on her personal Facebook page, which contains no indicators that she works for Palatine High School, the complaint notes.

Hedgepeth was then placed under investigation by the school board, and was fired just one month later, with said posts being cited as justification.

In the suit against McGowan, she accuses him of "falsely smearing her as a racist, and then orchestrating a campaign against her that resulted in her termination," according to the Cook County Record. McGowan organized various "anti-racism" BLM protests in Palatine during the summer of 2020.

McGowan reportedly posted a video to Facebook where he accused Hedgepeth of racism.

In her federal lawsuit, she states that the school board firing her over her personal Facebook posts violated her first amendment free speech rights.

Hedgepeth's "protected speech was a substantial or motivating factor in (District 211's) decision to terminate Plaintiff's employment, and, but for Plaintiff's protected speech, Defendants would not have terminated Plaintiff's employment," Hedgepeth's lawsuit states.

"The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory damages from District 2011 and punitive damages against District 211 human resources director James A. Britton; District 211 school board members Kimberly Cavill, Anna Klimkowicz, Robert J. Lefevre Jr., Edward M. Yung and Steven Rosenblum; and District 211 Superintendent Lisa A. Small," wrote the Cook County Record.


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