The Scenario: “The Mystery Meat Comes Back Up!” Directions: Read the entire scenario below. Do not assume any facts not in evidence. Do assume that this scenario is based on a Florida Public School and that all Florida and federal laws and legal precedents apply. At the conclusion of the scenario will be a series of prompt questions you should answer.
Directions: Read the entire scenario below. Do not assume any facts not in evidence. Do assume that this scenario is based on a Florida Public School and that all Florida and federal laws and legal precedents apply. At the conclusion of the scenario will be a series of prompt questions you should answer. You may assume your role is that of a central office administrator tasked to analyze the situation and make recommendations to the superintendent based on your legal knowledge. The superintendent wishes to have your report before the expense of hiring outside lawyers to handle the matter. The district does not employ an in-house lawyer.
Do not waste time or space, unless asked to, by discussing non-legal issues, such as efforts to resolve the issue “reasonably” by talking to the parties. Also, do not waste space by re-stating or re-writing the scenario and the questions. Answer using proper sentence and paragraph forms (no “lists,” please!) You may use “short cites” (name only) for cases in the book or class, but should fully cite any materials you may choose to add. This exam is open-book and note, and you are free to do any additional research you wish on your own. However, you may not seek help or discuss this exam with any other person, living or dead, except the course instructor!
The Scenario: “The Mystery Meat Comes Back Up!”
Needless to say, the “Phoney Baloney” scandal is the talk of Gross Central High and the community. One teacher, in particular, is extremely upset. Ms. Millicent Militant (MM, or “Emmy,” for short) was the assistant coach of the Field Hockey team and was very close to many of the afflicted students. She is also the school’s honors biology teacher and faculty advisor to the GCHS “Nutrition Club.” Prior to the “Baloney” incident, this club was mostly an apolitical group learning about good eating habits, organic foods, etc. Following the poisonings the following events begin to occur:
Emmy begins to talk about food safety more and more in her class lectures in biology. In these lectures she frequently uses “the Incident” as an example of poor food safety and the dangers of processed foods. The general gist of these lectures is that if the school district had learned the lessons she is teaching the students then this might have been avoided. Although she does not say it outright, there is a clear implication in these statements of blame and incompetence of the district and its leaders. Remember she does teach biology. She has also been overheard in the faculty lounge mocking Pinky Floyd for making the kids sick and hoping this at least gets Floyd fired because she never liked her and always thought that she would make a better field hockey coach.
Emmy also becomes a community activist. She writes letters to the editor of the local paper, the Times-Onion, appears on the TV show “Good Morning Gross,” and begins to participate in public rallies against the school board. She also becomes involved in the political campaign of Mr. Crunchy Granola, who is running against the current board president. Overall, MM’s public statements imply that the board and district leadership put saving money ahead of student safety. They are biased against female athletes, and that they continue to irresponsibly serve the baloney as a fried food. (Remember cooking kills the bacillus.)
She also states that she has heard “rumors” that the food service manager, and perhaps people “as high as the board” may have been paid off to buy the “Phoney Baloney.” None of these statements are made on her work time, using district e-mail or stationary, or while she is wearing any school logo apparel or ID badges. However, she does not hide the fact that she is a teacher at GCHS.
With Emmy as advisor the Nutrition Club becomes more militant. It is one of several dozen student clubs allowed to meet at school. Although there is no direct evidence that MM is inciting the members at club meetings (the club meets after school in her classroom). The club has clearly been influenced by her class lectures and public activism. It is one of several dozen student clubs allowed to meet at school. The students have begun wearing “no baloney” pins around school and encouraging students to boycott lunchroom.
They have also begin an online newspaper called “No More Gross Baloney,” using the same logo. In addition, they have placed “No Baloney” signs in vacant lots across from the school (but not on school property.) They may be having an effect: Sales of food in the lunchroom have dropped by 50%. Some free and reduced lunch program students are even going hungry rather than risk getting sick. This is also spreading, via internet, to other schools in the district. If this keeps up, the district could lose several hundred thousand dollars in projected lunchroom revenue by the end of the year. When asked by the principal to “drop it,” the club defiantly refused and stated that it plans to continue meeting. It also wants to host a fundraiser for the victims on campus.
On top of all of this, you have just learned that Emmy has been subpoenaed to testify at the trial (or trials, depending on your answer to Part A) on behalf of the victims, and before a special state legislative committee investigating the scandal. You can expect her testimony will not be favorable to the district or to Ms. Floyd.
The scandal has created a huge wave of negative publicity against the district, even appearing in national and international media. Even President Grump has chimed in saying he plans to send the students “real baloney” from Washington, D.C. (where they have plenty, apparently), and it’s going to be the “greatest baloney they have ever seen, really, really the very best. It’s going to be so good.” The board and the superintendent are really concerned about the all the negative attention. Also are concerned that they may all be voted out if the community remains in an uproar. They believe Ms. Militant and her students are the cause of much of this.
1) What, if anything, legally can the district do to control Emmy’s speech in the classroom, in public, and elsewhere (like the club)? Is any of her speech protected and by what? Is any of her speech unprotected? Explain. Use cases when possible!
2) Assuming MM will still be employed for the foreseeable future, what advice can you offer the superintendent to legally control her activities and speech?
3) Assuming any of her activities are not protected by law, can she be suspended or terminated by Gross County Schools and under what grounds? Has she committed any potential ethical violations that can be reported to the Florida Department Of Education? (Be specific about which ones!)
4) What can be done about the student activities? Are they causing a material and substantial disruption and, if so, what is your response? Be specific and cite case law. Are there any activities beyond the reach of the schools? What about the Nutrition Club?
5) Outside of formal actions by the school district, could MM face any other legal consequences personally for her actions or speech? (This is a “bonus” question. You don’t need to answer.)