Back in February, we covered a New Jersey case where a teacher had criticized her first-grade students on her private Facebook page, and was subsequently fired. The NLRB, in that instance, upheld the teacher’s dismissal, as her speech was not a matter of public concern, and therefore not considered protected. In early May, the New York Supreme Court heard a similar case. The background: Christine Rubino, who taught at PS 203 in Brooklyn, posted the following on her page the day after a 12-year -old had drowned while on a school trip:
“After today, I’m thinking the beach sounds like a wonderful idea for my 5th graders. I HATE THEIR GUTS! They are all the devils spawn!”
This message was posted by Rubino on her private Facebook wall, and deleted a few days later. Though she was not friends with any of her students or their parents, word got out, and she was fired. In February of last year, a Manhattan Supreme Court Judge ruled that the firing was impermissible, and in May, the case found its way to the state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division. That court’s opinion is fairly short, but it agrees that Rubino should not have been fired:
Although the comments were clearly inappropriate, it is apparent that petitioner’s purpose was to vent her frustration only to her online friends after a difficult day with her own students. None of her students or their parents were part of her network of friends and, thus, the comments were not published to them, nor to the public at large, and petitioner deleted the comments three days later.
Citing Rubino’s otherwise clean record, her acknowledgement that the remarks were “inappropriate and offensive”, and her “repeatedly expressed remorse”, the court found that the termination was “shocking to one’s sense of fairness”.
According to the NY Times, the city of New York plans to appeal the decision to the State Court of Appeals.