Teachers sue over Florida district's Facebook policy

Bradenton HeraldNovember 13, 2010 

MANATEE, Fla. — The teachers union in Manatee County filed a lawsuit Friday challenging the constitutionality of a proposed Manatee school district policy governing how teachers use Facebook and other social networking websites.

The lawsuit by the Manatee Education Association asserts that the policy would violate teachers' free of speech rights.

The action comes 45 days after the school district came up with a proposed policy that would prohibit teachers from posting negative statements or photos about the district, employees or students from their home or work computers on sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

The policy would also require teachers to get written permission from parents if they want to communicate with students on those websites, or by personal e-mail.

At the time, school board chairwoman Jane Pfeilsticker voiced concern about the district infringing on First Amendment rights, stating, "This is pretty untested water and I would love to see how other districts have dealt with this without any freedom of speech issues arriving in a lawsuit."

In the 18-page suit, filed in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court, the Manatee Education Association and its president, Pat Barber, allege that proposed policy 4.7, "prohibits speech on matters of public concert in a manner which violates the First Amendment, United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 4, Florida Constitution."

When he discovered the district had been sued by the teachers union Friday, school board attorney John Bowen said he was disappointed.

"I am disappointed this wasn't handled in a manner that would not have involved spending the public's money on litigation," Bowen said. Bowen also called the teachers union action "premature."

The union in October filed a complaint with the state over the policy. The state has not issued a ruling.

Read more of this story at Bradenton.com

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