WOOSTER, Ohio — A former elementary school tutor who is a vegan activist, along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, have reached a settlement with a Wayne County school district over a lawsuit that alleged the school violated Allison’s rights to freedom of speech.
Keith Allison, who had worked for Green Local Schools as a Title I tutor, found out in August that his contract was being pulled from consideration over what he said were concerns involving a vegan-related post he made to Facebook.
The school disputed that claim, saying he was not rehired following the expiration of his one-year, limited contract.
In a letter to the ACLU, the school said “this decision was not based upon Mr. Allison’s vegan views or lifestyle.”
Allison and his attorneys filed a civil suit against the school March 4, following a letter from the ACLU in December that insisted the school give him back his position as Title I tutor, provide him with back pay for the period he was unemployed, and clarify the district’s policies to “bring it into conformity” with constitutional laws.
The settlement requires the school to pay $17,500 to the ACLU, which will retain about $6,700 for attorney fees and costs, and pay Allison for his share.
According to the settlement, there is “no admission or liability of guilt of any sort.”
Instead, the school sought a compromise “in an effort to avoid additional litigation expenses, the uncertainty of trial, and maintain a positive relationship between the parties.”
The settlement also states that Green Local Schools recognizes the right of its staff members, within the confines of the law, to engage in free speech outside the educational setting.
Allison was rehired by the district for a position at the district’s middle school in January, but the ACLU said they still sued the district because it did not modify its position on free speech, and also refused to pay him for the months he was unemployed.
The Facebook post that Allison says was to blame included photos he took from the road, of some calves in plastic calf hutches, and his criticism over “separating babies from loving mothers.”
The post, which was made in 2014, encouraged others to “help change the system” and encouraged the consumption of plant-based milk, instead of dairy milk.
As part of the settlement, Allison also waives all other potential claims and actions for compensation against the district.
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