GAE files lawsuit to protect Gwinnett County member’s free speech rights  

JUNE 8, 2021

ATLANTA -- The Georgia Association of Educators (GAE) has filed a lawsuit in federal district court on behalf of GAE member Jeff Corkill against Gwinnett County Schools for violation of Mr. Corkill’s rights of free speech and association.

During the summer of 2019 when school was out of session, Mr. Corkill participated in an organized protest of the detention and mistreatment of immigrants living in the United States organized by a Jewish activist political group, Never Again Now. Mr. Corkill, along with other protesters, was arrested during the peaceful protest for disorderly conduct. Though the charges were dismissed, his principal obtained a photograph of him at the rally. From that point forward, Mr. Corkill’s teacher evaluations went downhill in stark contrast to his record. The principal specifically referenced Mr. Corkill’s participation in the summer protests: “This conduct is contrary to our community school standards and jeopardizes the character and reputation of our school, community, and profession. These actions are contrary to the expectations of professionalism…” Mr. Corkill, still a public school teacher, filed the lawsuit “as a matter of principle.”  Mr. Corkill’s lawyer, Craig Goodmark explained, “Being punished at work for standing up for freedom is the exact opposite of what this country is about.”

Mr. Corkill’s lawsuit seeks a retraction of the negative evaluations created by his principal.  According to Mike McGonigle, GAE General Counsel/Legal Services Director, "The First Amendment does not exclude teachers nor does it allow the evaluation process to be used to chill educators' civil rights. All public school employees have the right to protest and speak out on matters of public concern without fear from this kind of retaliation.”

  Click here to read the lawsuit.