School District Declares “Gorilla” War on Employee Speech

Ban Censorship (RGBStock)

Teachers’ aide Jane Wood Allen “has been relieved from duty and is no longer an employee of Forsyth County Schools,” the Georgia district announced on October 3. “Racism and discrimination are not tolerated in our school district.”

The district’s announcement omits specifics (“[a]s this is a personnel matter, the district will provide not further comment”), leaving the casual observer to assume that she must have tried to force a Muslim or Jewish student to eat pork, or perhaps to segregate student water fountains or district buses by race.

In fact, her offense was posting comments on her personal Facebook timeline — comments that many, myself included, find repulsive. She called First Lady Michelle Obama a “gorilla” and asserted that Muslims “have no business in the USA.”

As a libertarian, I’m generally indisposed to defend either government education (I favor complete separation of school and state) or government employees (I favor complete separation of everything else and state as well, which would leave nothing for them to do!).

But the government shouldn’t be allowed to punish people for what they say. There’s a word for that. That word is “censorship.”

The content of Allen’s personal, non-work Facebook profile was and is, quite simply, none of the school district’s business. Firing her is essentially fining her, in the amount of all future wages and retirement benefits she would otherwise have earned, for the “crime” of having opinions the district’s officials disagreed with, and for expressing those opinions on her own time and using her own resources.

In arguing this point with some who disagree, I’ve been asked if I would want a racist teaching my kids. Well, no, I wouldn’t … but that doesn’t mean I get to demand that the government screen job applicants to make sure those applicants agree with me 100%, right down the line, on any and every issue and fire those who don’t.

The government shouldn’t get to fire someone because they find out that her or she is gay or trans rather than heterosexual and cis-gendered.

The government shouldn’t get to fire someone because they find out he or she is an Episcopalian rather than a Baptist.

The government shouldn’t get to fire someone because they find out he or she belongs to a political party other than the one in power.

And the government shouldn’t get to fire Jane Wood Allen for calling the First Lady a “gorilla.”

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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Also published on Medium.

  • Kylie

    I disagree. It may be her private facebook page, but here’s the problem. if you list your employer then you could be seen as representing that employer. I happily reported a woman for her transphobic comments on a news article to her employer for such a reason. She got fired. Deservingly so.

    • Was her employer the government?

      • Kylie

        a private law firm.

        and i would have kept reporting it even if was the government. I don’t support racism, a shame you do.

        • I don’t support racism — in fact, one of my earliest political actions was counter-protesting the klan.

          What I support is the government not regulating speech and engaging in censorship.

          I’m all for private employers firing haters. I won’t patronize private firms that I know to be invested in hate.

          But THE GOVERNMENT firing someone for non-work speech is evil and fascist. If the person you reported had been a government employee, firing her for being trans-phobic would have been exactly as wrong as firing her for being trans.

          • Kylie

            I disagree.

            I would have been doing the right thing to ensure a safe working environment.

            You would have supported racism and transphobia which are the wrong things to support.

            But of course, you’re brainwashed to believe it’s fine to be a bigot despite what society says

          • Not only have I not been “brainwashed” to believe it’s fine to be a bigot, I’m about as anti-bigot as it’s possible to get.

            I support free speech. Heck, I even support your right to make yourself look like an idiot right here in public, even though I feel sorry for you for doing so.

          • Kylie

            You clearly are not anti-bigot as evidence. Anti-bigot would support her firing

          • Well, yes, that would be the case if words stopped meaning things.

          • CountryBoy

            You didn’t come here to discuss with any evidence. You came here to accuse and play SJW, evident by your lack of information about this site and Mr. Knapp, and your unwillingness to lift a finger to find out.

          • CountryBoy

            Kylie,

            What if I don’t agree with what you say, and I’m on the committee to filter out such things?

            Will you want people censoring your speech then?

            Nothing was said of a “hostile” environment or other complaints – this was simply her own opinion outside of the school.

            You were allowed to post your rants on a forum that could easily have removed them. They chose not to do so, so we’d have the benefit of reading your opinions.

            As usual, you responded with personal attacks and name-calling, the hallmark of the “tolerant” group, while having the prescience to somehow “know” that “You would have supported racism and transphobia which are the wrong things to support”. Can you please tell me how you know that, as my crystal ball seems to have lost its connection to the netherworld.

            But society has said they want the government to NOT censor speech, which is why we have the 1st Amendment to the Constitution.

            So your very entertaining posts here and elsewhere can continue.

            Thank you!

          • Kylie

            ‘as usual’ ? This is my first time commenting here. But I can see silencing is in full effect. Good to know

          • “But in my imagination, I can see silencing is in full effect.”

            Fixed, no charge.

          • Kylie

            No, that’s not a fix. That’s an attempt at putting words into my mouth. Good try

          • Well, any “silencing” is clearly a figment of your imagination. I’m happy to let you continue making yourself look like an idiot for as long as you like.

          • Kylie

            I’m not the one looking like an idiot. I laid out my argument and it has yet to be refuted.

            You claim to be anti-bigotry yet support bigotry. If anyone’s looking like the idiot here, it’s you.

          • You haven’t made an “argument.”

            You’ve just made an accusation.

            An accusation that happens to be refuted by every crumb of evidence, including 30-odd years of activism and 20-odd years of writing that you could look at if you weren’t too lazy to use Google.

          • Kylie

            30 odd years of activism and 20-odd years of writing that for all I know you’ve made up.

          • Well, yes, like I said, if you’re too lazy to use Google you’ll be able to maintain your ignorance, if that’s what you want to do.

            Because supporting free speech means I must be trans-phobic, right? And maybe homophobic, too. And I bet I support bigotry in government.

            Ooooh, ya got me! Your refusal to know what you’re talking about before talking about it brought me to bay!

          • Kylie

            Of course I know it’s very easy to go into a site like medium and make up posts, so…¯_(ツ)_/¯

          • My material has only been posting at Medium for a year or so.

            I’ve been blogging at KN@PPSTER since 2004.

            I’ve got a book out — it’s a free download — of collected columns going back to 1995.

            Of course I was writing long before that, but that was a good 20-year cutoff point for Internet-available stuff.

            If you’re interested in whether or not I’m a bigot, there are probably a couple of million words of evidence out there, easy to find, to show you whether or not I’m a bigot.

            If you’re interested in the truth, it’s easy to discover. If you just want to make accusations without evidence, well, fine — and go fuck yourself.

          • CountryBoy

            Make up posts?

            Girl, you’re sniffing something we just don’t have in the real world.

          • CountryBoy

            She’s a delicate flower, and wants nothing to do with free speech unless it’s hers and only hers.

            But she’s right about one thing: she doesn’t suffer stupidity; she seems to rather revel in it.

          • CountryBoy

            Oh, yes, your first time. You learned well, apparently, as you started with attacks immediately. Now your “snowflake” sensors have protected you from speech you can’t handle.

            Why not and comprehend a post instead of what you did, which is the hallmark of the group that claims to be so tolerant yet cannot dare hear any other opinion.

            You’re right, you don’t suffer stupidity; you seem to rather enjoy it.

            Welcome to reality; the world doesn’t deal with your imagination as you’d prefer.