ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - An Orange County teacher who was kicked out of Avalon Elementary School says she feels vindicated, after winning a case against the school district and standing up for her First Amendment rights.
"I want an apology," said Wendi Lowrey, a speech language pathologist. She had worked at Avalon Elementary School, until she was transferred by the former principal for posting articles to her private Facebook page. "They were issues of state reform movements that were happening. Issues of legislation."
She says none of the articles criticized the Orange County School district, who she has worked for, for the last 12 years. "One of the supervisors told me it wasn't my job to advocate for students. I was told to keep my Facebook posts to cute pictures of family."
The Classroom Teachers Association attorney Kenrick Pratt says other teachers at Avalon Elementary got a notice shortly after that.. "If they were to engage in comments on Facebook even on their own time that the district termed negative, they could face disciplinary action."
However, now that the teachers union has won the arbitration, they want changes. "Under Superintendent Barbara Jenkins a culture of fear and retaliation exists, whether it's her intention or not, it's the responsibility of the superintendent to correct the situation," said Mark Erwin Mitchell, the Executive Director of the teachers union.
But a school district spokesperson said the allegations are false and released this statement saying: OCPS has received the arbitrator's ruling and is evaluating its options. In the meantime, we do not have any comment. Mitchell said, "This unfortunately is another example of the district not playing by the rules. It's a waste of taxpayers money, it's cheating teachers out."
Meanwhile, Lowrey wants to return to Avalon Elementary after having to work out of several different schools. "It was very hurtful. That's how I restore my dignity." She said she hopes to hear from school district administrators soon.