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Court Revives Parent's Speech Retaliation Claim Against Superintendent

A federal appeals court today partially reinstated a parent's lawsuit against a school district and superintendent stemming from the treatment of the parent's daughter, who has diabetes.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, in Detroit, ruled unanimously that the parent may have a valid claim that the superintendent retaliated against her for public criticisms that were protected by the First Amendment.

The case stems from what appears to have been a nasty spat between the parent and the district over such things as whether the school nurse would administer the student's insulin shots and whether the superintendent tried to bar the student from returning to her school.

The appeals court upheld the dismissal of most of the parent's claims. But as to the claim over retaliation for protected speech, it said "a jury could conclude [the superintendent's] alleged actions, dismissing [the student] from school, being involved in making a false report to Children Services, and refusing to provide home-school education through the services of a tutor, would chill a person of ordinary firmness from engaging in speech."

The parent's lawsuit now heads back to a federal district court for further proceedings.

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