Professor Joseph Mead filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio on behalf of a pro bono client, Keith Allison, who was removed from his school teacher position for commentary on dairy agriculture. The client had posted a note, on his own time, on Facebook urging readers to choose plant-based milk. The school district refused to renew Allison’s teaching contract for the next school year because a dairy farmer objected to the post. The complaint includes an email sent by the superintendent to the school board explaining the district’s policy that “we need our teachers to really consider the whole community when doing these sorts of things [i.e., making public statements], especially when our biggest tax payers are dairy farmers.” The complaint argues that this policy and Allison’s contract non-renewal violates Allison’s constitutional right to free speech, and seeks back pay, a court order declaring the policy unconstitutional, and other relief against the school board, the board members, and the superintendent.
After Professor Mead had sent a letter to the school board on Allison’s behalf in December 2014, the District hired Allison in another teaching role, but it refused to change its policy or provide Allison with full back pay. The complaint has been covered in several local media outlets. Professor Mead, who holds a joint appointment with the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, previously litigated constitutional cases for the United States Department of Justice, and is handling this case in cooperation with the ACLU of Ohio.
The complaint can be accessed here.