(Photo: Screenshot of Allison with sheep, from Evolve Campaigns)
SMITHVILLE, Ohio — A former Wayne County elementary school tutor says his tutoring contract was not renewed because of his views concerning animal rights and veganism.
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 post included photos of some calves in plastic calf hutches, what Allison calls “crates,” and his criticism over “separating babies from loving mothers.” The post also encouraged the consumption of plant-based milk.
“It was very clearly explained to me, that (post) was the reason,” Allison said.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sent a letter to the school Dec. 10, seeking an apology and asking that Allison be reinstated, on the grounds that Allison was expressing his First Amendment rights.
Related: The ACLU letter to the school.
The situation was brought to the ACLU of Ohio’s attention by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the organization Allison first approached for assistance, according to the ACLU.
Judy Robinson, school superintendent, insisted it “was not his personal views” that led to the contract not being renewed. She declined to say more because the ACLU is threatening litigation if its terms are not met.
The school’s legal counsel, Roetzel & Andress of Akron, sent a letter to the ACLU Dec. 15, clarifying several facts.
According to the school, Allison was employed as a part-time, hourly tutor for a one-year contract, and “he was not terminated.”
The school maintains that, “He (Allison) was not rehired following expiration of his one-year limited contract. This decision was not based upon Mr. Allison’s vegan views or lifestyle.”
The school concludes that Allison’s “First Amendment rights were in no way violated.”
Also, the school’s legal counsel said the ACLU did not verify Allison’s account with the school, prior to issuing a complaint against the school.
The ACLU told Farm and Dairy it didn’t verify the allegations with the school because it was a “personnel matter,” and the ACLU didn’t believe the school would comment on the decision.
Allison said he was told “if I wanted to be a strong vegan advocate that I might want to consider something other than teaching.”
Currently, he is employed as a substitute teacher at various schools. He is part of the Cleveland Animal Rights Alliance and Akron Peace Project.
He said his vegan views were never directly taught to his students, and that his activism and social media posts were done on his personal time.
Allison said that he was surprised by a farmer’s concerns over the post, who he said removed his students from the district shortly after. He said he tried to reach the farmer to discuss the matter, but the farmer didn’t return his call.
He said he made the post to demonstrate the separation of baby calves from their mothers.
“I’m a peace activist,” he said. “I’m out there trying to spread love and compassion.”
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