Tenured Teacher Terminated After Calling Student an “Animal”

Case Background

In the case of Kline v. New Haven Board of Education, a tenured teacher appealed the New Haven Board of Education’s decision to terminate his employment in the city school system. The teacher argued that the board of education was violating his freedom of speech by terminating him for alleged comments made in the classroom.

The teacher began his employment in 1974 and was continuously employed by the New haven Board of Education until his termination in October 2004. While students were passing in the school corridor, the teacher reportedly used the term “animals” in reference to some students. One student became angry and upset, after claiming that the teacher directed a derogatory remark toward him. The student claims that the teacher called him an “animal” and said, “some animals cannot be trained.” The teacher admitted to making this comment. After due notice and hearing, the board of education terminated the teacher’s employment.

The Court’s Decision

The court denied the teacher’s appeal. There was no violation of free speech, as the derogatory remark was uttered without any purpose that would otherwise further teaching. There was ample evidence to support due and sufficient cause for his termination.

“The type of language employed by the [tenured teacher] on more than one occasion is disruptive, and incurred the ire of one student in a situation which could have become confrontational” said the court. “The New Haven Board of Education, faced with the task of promoting an effective educational environment in an urban school system, with a large African-American student population, has both the right and the obligation to curb the use of language and remarks made by its professional staff which may be incendiary, and which promote discord.”

This case was not handled by our firm. However, if you have any questions regarding this case, or any education matter, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

If you have a child with a disability and have questions about special education law, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq., at 203-221-3100, or at JMaya@mayalaw.com, to schedule a free consultation.