Walled Lake teacher fired after his Trump tweets files federal suit against district
A former Walled Lake teacher who said he was fired over tweets supporting President Donald Trump has filed a federal suit against the school district, the superintendent and assistant superintendent of human resources.
The suit filed Tuesday in the Eastern District Court of Michigan alleges the school district's termination of then-28-year-old Justin Kucera violated his constitutional rights to free speech and equal protection.
Kucera, a former Walled Lake Western High School social studies teacher and basketball and baseball coach, received "a mixed reaction" to the tweets, but "did not discuss his political views in the classroom, and all debate regarding this matter took place on social media outside of school grounds," the lawsuit said.
"The sole motivation for plaintiff's termination was retaliation for his exercise of his constitutionally protected speech," the lawsuit said.
Kucera, the suit says, has suffered "lost wages, damage to professional reputation, emotional distress, outrage and humiliation." The suit seeks compensation for lost wages, punitive money damages against the district and Kucera's reinstatement to his former position.
As of Wednesday, Walled Lake schools had not been served the lawsuit and declined comment.
Kucera's official personnel file, obtained by The Detroit News through a public records request, says Kucera wasn't fired for a tweet supporting Trump but for a reply that later was deleted saying, "liberals suck man." The official reason for his termination was "a lack of professional judgment."
Kucera was offered his job back a day after his story went viral in July, but he declined the offer on the belief that the "issue would follow him into the classroom."
His personnel file indicates Superintendent Ken Gutman met with Kucera to inform him he "would be able to return" but may have to admit to wrongdoing, receive a suspension or transfer to a different school. Kucera declined the offer but admitted that he knew it was the "liberals suck" tweet that led to his termination.
Kucera's lawsuit describes his tweets as including “'Donald Trump is my president,' that schools should reopen in the fall, and that political liberals were attempting to divide us and 'suck.'"
"Even though many strongly disagree with these opinions, they are all political speech protected from government intrusion under the U.S. and Michigan constitutions," the lawsuit said.