NSBA on Teacher Speech Outside of School

May a school district regulate employee expression that occurs off-campus and not at a school activity? For example, may a school address speech or expression of an employee who attends a controversial rally or is involved with controversial causes?

“Generally, an employee’s right to associate with a particular group is protected by the First Amendment, but in at least one case, a federal court has found that a public employer could discipline an employee for his participation in a controversial cause when the participation was contrary to the employer’s interest. In Doggrell v. City of Anniston, a court held that a police department did not violate an officer’s First Amendment association rights by firing him after his speech at the national conference of an organization identified as a “hate group” was publicized. The department had received many complaints about the officer’s involvement in a group that “promote[d] a return to segregation, overtly disparage[d] black Americans, believe[d] in white supremacy and the inferiority of black Americans and espouse[d] plainly racist and inflammatory rhetoric.” The court found that the police department’s interest in maintaining order, loyalty, morale and harmony outweighed the officer’s rights to free association. (pg. 14)”

National School Board Association’s Coercion, Conscience, and the First Amendment