Ms. Richerson also maintained a blog in which she recounted her observations as an employee of the school district. In one entry, she commented as follows on the person hired to replace her when she was assigned to her new position:
Save us White Boy!When the school district learned of the blog entry, Ms. Richerson was verbally reprimanded for violating the confidentiality required of a member of an employee interview team and a confirming letter was placed in her personnel file.
I met with the new me today: the person who will take my summer work and make it a full-time year-round position. I was on the interview committee for this job and this guy was my third choice . . . and a reluctant one at that. I truly hope that I have to eat my words about this guy. . . . But after spending time with this guy today, I think Boss Lady 2.0 made the wrong call in hiring him. . . He comes across as a smug know-it-all creep. And that's probably the nicest way I can describe him. ... He has a reputation of cra**ing on secretaries and not being able to finish tasks on his own. ... And he's white. And male. I know he can't help that, but I think the District would have done well to recruit someone who has other connections to the community. ... Mighty White Boy looks like he's going to crash and burn.
At some point, the school district also received a complaint from a district teacher and lead union negotiator about another entry on Ms. Richerson's blog, which the teacher construed as a personal attack on her. The entry apparently included the statement, "What I wouldn't give to draw a little Hitler mustache on the chief negotiator." The school district then advised Ms. Richerson that she was being involuntarily reassigned from her new position to that of a classroom teacher.
Ms. Richerson then brought suit in the Western District of Washington claiming that the school district had violated her civil rights by reassigning her in retaliation for the exercise of her First Amendment free speech rights.
On cross-motions for summary judgment, the District Court disagreed, concluding that Ms. Richerson's speech did not meet the "public concern" test and was therefore not protected. The District Court noted that the government has a "freer hand" in regulating the speech of its employees and concluded that the proposed mentoring relationship between Ms. Richerson and other teachers envisioned in her new position would have faced "severe difficulties" had she not been reassigned following her blog entries. In concluding that Ms. Richerson's speech on her blog did not meet the public concern test, the District Court also noted that "it was racist, sexist, and bordered on vulgar" and characterized her behavior, in part, as "salacious" and "mean spirited."
You can read the District Court's full opinion here and the complaint and answer here and here.