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2 N.J.A.R. 80

Piscataway Township Education Association & Rosetta Donelick v. Piscataway Township Board of Education
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Citation: 2 N.J.A.R. 80
Decision Date: 1980
Agency: DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
Synopsis: Petitioner, a tenured teacher, alleged that her constitutional right to free speech was abridged when the school principal included a negative reference to the teacher's conduct at a board of education meeting in an annual written evaluation. At the meeting, the teacher had made a statement regarding the difficulty she had encountered in arranging for a student to be tested for a possible learning disability by the district's child study team. While recognizing that a teacher's freedom of speech was not absolute, the administrative law judge found that reference to this teacher's advocacy of a view unpopular with the school idministration had no place in an annual performance evaluation. Such a reprimand placed in a teacher's personnel file, without any restfictions as to its use, may have an adverse impact on employment possibilities, assignment or earnings. Here, the benefits derived from a free and open exchange outweigh any contrary legitimate state interest. Thus, the Board was ordered to remove all references to the statement at the meeting from the teacher's 1978-79 annual evaluation. Jack Wysoker, Esq., for Petitioner (Mandel, Wysoker, Sherman, Glassner & Weingartner, Attorneys) David B. Rubin, Esq., for Respondent (Rubin, Lerner & Rubin, Attorneys)