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)”