State agency says Fort Worth teacher’s derogatory tweets on “illegal students” are protected as free speech

by | Dec 2, 2019 | Education, Policy

A Fort Worth teacher who was fired over tweets she sent to President Trump won her appeal to the Texas Education Agency last week. The agency ordered her job to be reinstated with back pay and benefits, or a full year’s salary.

The tweets in question focused on undocumented immigrants.

“Fort Worth Independent School District is loaded with illegal students from Mexico,” wrote Georgia Clark, a teacher at Fort Worth Independent School District, in a May tweet directed at Trump’s twitter account. “Anything you can do to remove the illegals from Fort Worth would be greatly appreciated.” 

The Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metro area has the nation’s fourth largest population of undocumented immigrants, according to Pew Research Center. 

In June, the school district terminated Clark’s employment, citing her tweets and comments she has previously allegedly made in class. 

Now, the TEA says Clark’s tweets are free speech. “Clark’s tweets are statements of a citizen on a matter of public concern protected by the United States Constitution and do not contravene or impair policies or proper performance of the district’s functions,” the TEA’s report said. 

But even TEA’s ruling in noted that “while teachers retain free speech rights, these rights are not unlimited.” 

This was not Clark’s first questionable incident, according to the Washington Post. In 2007, she kicked a student although a review found that it was “without malice. In 2013, she was disciplined for referring to a group of  students as “little Mexico” and another student as “white bread.” 

Fort Worth ISD has said that it will appeal TEA’s decision, believing Clark’s termination is “in the best interests of all students,” the superintendent said in a statement.

Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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