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Want to know what is on our minds? Find blog posts written here, by the City Club staff, members, and partners. Every week you can find a new edition of #FreeSpeech in the News — a collection of related stories, commentary, and opinions on free speech in the 21st century that’s making the news. You’ll also find takes on current events, past forums, and issues surrounding Northeast Ohio. Read on for all things City Club.

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Monday, March 22, 2021

#FREESPEECH in the News March 22, 2020

Bliss Davis, Content and Programming Coordinator, The City Club of Cleveland

#FREESPEECH in the News March 22, 2020

As the Citadel of Free Speech here in Cleveland, we work to protect and promote the basis of our democracy by sharing related stories, commentary, and opinions on free speech in the 21st century. Here's what's making the news – and what you should know about – in the past week.

1.) 'Support free speech or resign:' Mayor responds to call for resignation by LFD captain

Lynchburg City's Mayor MaryJane Dolan is responding after calls for her resignation if she fails to support free speech. This comes after an LGBTQ group called out a Lynchburg Fire Dept. captain who posted transphobic cartoons on his social media. Dolan says she represents all factions in the city. She says the key to growth and development is diversity and inclusion.

Hill City Pride, an LGBTQ group says the post makes them feel as if their safety might be in jeopardy with Misjuns doing his job. The group met with Mayor Dolan, the Vice Mayor, the Fire Cheif, and the City manager to discuss the matter last month. Afterward, Misjuns created a petition calling on Dolan to say she supports free speech, and if not, to resign.

Misjuns says he has a right to free speech and his opinions. Misjuns went on to say that he would never treat anyone differently due to his personal beliefs. Dolan says she never asked for anyone to be fired, and believes the matter should be handled by the personnel department.

2.) NJ school district paid former teacher $325K over editing Trump T-shirt in yearbook

A former high school teacher in New Jersey received $325,000 in a settlement after she alleged that her bosses scapegoated and blamed her for editing a “Make America Great Again” shirt out of the school yearbook, NJ Advance Media reported.

Susan Parsons, who has since retired from the Wall Township School District, sued in 2019 claiming that the school district set her up for punishment after a secretary for her school's principal ordered her to edit out pro-Trump messages. She alleged that the district subjected her to a hostile work environment by barring her from speaking to the media in an attempt to clear her name. She previously received a $25,000 settlement from a lawsuit challenging a district media policy.

The Wall Board of Education approved the settlement and the district made no admission of wrongdoing or liability, the outlet reported. The payment will be made by the district’s insurance carrier.

3.) Huntington High teacher fired over anti-Muslim tweets

A Huntington High School social studies teacher who was suspended two months ago following the discovery of multiple anti-Muslim and racially charged tweets has been fired.

During a special meeting Monday, Flowers said the Cabell County Board of Education voted to approve Mary Durstein's suspension and termination of contract, following an employee hearing that was held in executive session. In January, school officials were made aware of a number of tweets spanning several years that Durstein made from her personal Twitter account that showed her condoning actions against Muslims and black people. Her Twitter account has since been deleted at the request of the school district. Durstein's termination was effective immediately.

Flowers told The Herald-Dispatch in January that students were some of the first to make the county aware of Durstein's tweets, sending screenshots to employees at the central office. Superintendent Bill Smith did not want to comment Tuesday regarding the board's decision; however, in January, following Durstein's suspension, Smith condemned Durstein's actions and said her tweets do not represent the district.

While employees have free speech rights, she broke an agreed to code of conduct. Cabell County Schools does employee code of conduct, states, "All Cabell County professional employees shall maintain a safe and healthy environment, free from harassment, intimidation, bullying, substance abuse and/or violence, and free from bias and discrimination."

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