HUNTINGTON — A lawsuit filed against the state superintendent of schools by a Cabell County teacher who was fired over social media posts has been dismissed by a federal judge.
Mary Durstein, a former history teacher and 17-year employee of Cabell County Schools, filed a lawsuit against the school system after she was fired when anti-Muslim and racially charged posts from her personal Twitter account surfaced in 2016.
Tweets from her now-deactivated personal Twitter (@pigpen63) condoned racist actions against the Black and Muslim communities.
Durstein argued that a law, which states a teacher shall maintain a professional relationship with all students at all times in and out of the classroom and allows the superintendent to revoke or suspend a teaching certificate for “immorality,” was overly broad.
She argued it had a “chilling effect,” language for laws that deter the right to free speech.
In dismissing the lawsuit March 22, federal Judge Robert C. Chambers wrote that “Durstein fails to establish that this law — which the State Superintendent points out has been on the books since 1908 — has had, or is likely to have, a substantial chilling effect on any speech, except perhaps her own.”
Chambers ruled the law did not target freedom of expression.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper praised the court’s decision.
“We welcome this ruling as a reaffirmation that those who apparently hold biased views of others — while having the right to express even those bigoted views — should not be teaching our nation’s children,” he said.
A lawsuit against Cabell County Schools is still pending.
The lawsuit came after Durstein was placed on administrative leave in January 2017 when a Marshall University student shared her tweets with Cabell County Schools and area news outlets. She was fired two months later by the board.
She said the superintendent violated her First Amendment rights by ordering her to deactivate her account. It also claims the superintendent had told her not to speak with media when the story broke, despite the school facilitating its own interviews.
In one tweet dated July 18, 2015, Durstein said, “#cashinIn #WakeUpAmerica #viewcrew Who cares if we offend Muslims at least they keep their heads on tact. They’re the enemy!”
On Jan. 5, 2017, Durstein responded to a tweet that said, “Can you imagine how many riots we would have around the country if the terrorists were white?”
The tweet contained a photo of four Black people, two males and two females, with the caption, “Imagine if these were 4 white people torturing a special need black kid!”
In her response, Durstein tweeted, “This could have been Obama’s children,” seemingly a reference to former President Barack Obama’s children.
Although her account had just 20 to 30 followers, it was publicly visible. She had argued it had no impact on her professional duty.
Durstein argued the school had made it a practice to suppress its educators’ views by asking them to delete social media when supervisors disapproved of their views.