by Jessie Morland - February 2006
"In defense of our constitutional rights"
Editor, The Beacon:
As I read Affirmed: Teachers as Citizens by DeLand resident Maggi Smith Hall, I felt sad, drained and yet uplifted by this woman's true story of persecution.
Yes, persecution of a 20-year highly respected teacher in South Carolina who dared to criticize certain expenditures by the school board in the district in which she was teaching.
She even had the "audacity" to print her feelings in a letter to the local newspaper.
That was when the unbelievable persecution of a citizen began.
She was harassed, followed and even hated by teachers and administrators who had never heard of someone daring to challenge a school board! It just wasn't done, but Maggi, who had gained an excellent reputation in the large city of Florence, S.C., never dreamed she could not exercise her right of free speech in a small South Carolina district.
She saw wasteful spending and poor test scores, and felt travel money spent by the school board was uncalled for when students did not have proper materials for learning.
As a teacher in a DeLand junior high school for 20 years, I was shocked by the revelations in Maggi's book. She took her case before two high courts, in South Carolina and Virginia, and won!
After having been fired from her teaching position in South Carolina, she decided that the First Amendment rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution were meant for teachers!
She relied on a landmark Supreme Court decision to help her lawsuit, which reads in part: "Teachers are, as a class, the members of a community most likely to have informed and definite opinions as to how funds allotted to the operation of the schools should be spent. ... It is essential that they be able to speak out freely on such questions without fear of retaliatory dismissal."
This book should be read by all who value our constitutional rights.
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