A federal court jury will hear the case of a former Peoples Academy teacher, who claims he was fired for criticizing the school superintendent during an informal meeting.
The trial is scheduled next week in U.S. District Court.
David Bain was a business and technology teacher at Peoples Academy in Morrisville for 25 years before being fired in 2014.
Bain claims Superintendent Tracy Wrend fired him because he criticized her leadership and attempted to get a committee of the teachers union to join him in a vote of no confidence against Wrend.
Bain also alleges age and gender discrimination and intentional emotional distress.
Wrend has denied all the allegations.
Last November, Judge Geoffrey Crawford threw out the last two allegations, but allowed a jury to decide the question of whether Wrend violated Bain’s First Amendment rights to free speech.
The jury will be picked Monday, Sept. 9, and the trial will begin immediately afterward.
In a statement earlier this spring, Wrend’s attorney, Pietro Lynn, said, “We do not believe that there is any evidence to support that contention. Tracy did not know of the statements Mr. Bain claims to have made. She was not even aware of the alleged union meeting.”
Bain’s lawyer, Chandler Matson, offered his own statement at the same time: “David Bain was a lifelong, dedicated teacher. He lost his job, he has never worked as an educator again, and he is incredibly grateful that he will finally be able to present his side of the story to a jury of his peers.
“The facts of this case speak for themselves — Mr. Bain was wronged, plain and simple, and we are confident that the trial system will make that clear once and for all.”
According to court documents, Crawford stated Bain must prove three different elements for his lawsuit to succeed.
First, Bain has to prove that his statements in the informal union meeting were matters of public concern, and not just things that affected him personally.
On the other hand, he also has to prove that he spoke in his individual capacity, and not in his role as an employee of Peoples Academy. As an example, Crawford says a school could have a policy prohibiting teachers from criticizing the superintendent when addressing kids at a school assembly.
But, Crawford adds, “The same criticism expressed in a private setting and not as part of the teacher’s duties would likely qualify for protection under the First Amendment.”
Bain also has to prove that those actions got him fired. If the jury finds Bain’s arguments compelling, it must determine whether that retaliation “caused him to sustain damages.”