Lee-Walker v. New York City Department of Education, et al.

February 18, 2018

With assistance from students at the Emory Law School Supreme Court Advocacy Project, FIRE filed an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court of the United States in support of Petitioner Jeena Lee-Walker’s petition for writ of certiorari. In 2013, Lee-Walker, a New York City public school teacher, was fired for trying to teach her students about the Central Park Five. FIRE’s brief argued that the in-classroom speech of public educators like Lee-Walker is protected speech and vital to the preservation of academic freedom. However, since the Supreme Court’s decision in Garcetti, the law governing that speech has been left in a state of uncertainty. So long as lower courts remain split on the scope of their First Amendment rights, public educators are vulnerable to severe penalties merely for what they choose to teach in their own classrooms. FIRE urged the Supreme Court to grant certiorari to clearly establish an academic exception to Garcetti so that Lee-Walker and other public educators can continue to freely engage and challenge their students without fear of punishment.