Teacher’s Contract Protest Protected by 1st Amendment Free Speech

East Meadow school district fined Richard Santer $500 after he parked his car at the curb and placed his contract protest sign in the car window on a rainy day.  On other days the teachers protesting for a better contract walked on the sidewalk in front of the school.  East Meadow School District filed charges pursuant to Education Law Section 3020a.

The Second Department held that review under Section 75 is broad and requires: 1) the arbitrator’s determination display good faith under the law and in the record and 2) the determination must not be arbitrary and capricious.

The arbitrator found that Santer “intentionally created a health and safety risk by purposely situating his vehicle alongside the curb of Westwood Drive prevented the school buses from dropping the kids off at curbside.  The arbitrator sided with the school district and found Santer culpable.  The Supreme Court, Nassau County confirmed the determination after Santer filed a CPLR Section 75 appeal.

The Appellate Division, Second Department reversed and held that Santer had a protected First Amendment right to protest because contract rights are a “matter of public concern.”

Read about this 3020-a and CPLR 75 case here.

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