Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


The Sound of Silence

By Shawn Healy
Deb Meyer, the former teacher who lost her First Amendment battle in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, responded to my February 5th entry by forwarding a letter she wrote for friends and supporters. It reads as follows:

February, 2007

Hello dear friends,

I wanted to share with you the latest development on my case. If you recall I was fired from my teaching job in Bloomington, Indiana for making a statement in support of peace before the war in Iraq began. Most recently I appealed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago to reverse the lower court’s ruling stating that teacher’s have no right of free speech.

I have lost the appeal with the court ignoring the issue to be decided, disregarding the facts of my case, and making assumptions that are not true. My attorney and I have petitioned for a rehearing, but I understand those are seldom granted in this court.

I am attaching the opinion and the request for rehearing so you can know the facts first hand. Either this court is crooked or extremely incompetent. Either way I am being denied justice and the entire country will suffer as a result.

Please share the opinion with your friends in education. Teachers need to know that their precious freedom of speech is now considered a commodity by the court. From the opinion, “. . . the school system does not “regulate” a teacher’s speech as much as it hires that speech. Expression is a teacher’s stock in trade, the commodity she sells to her employer in exchange for a salary.”

I would intensely argue that my speech is not for sale at any price and certainly not for a paltry teacher’s salary. My stock in trade is my knowledge about how kids learn and how to best teach them – not my right of free speech. I think this language changes entirely how we view our freedom. I certainly would not sell my freedom to a school system that requires me to teach lies as the truth as Monroe County Community School Corporation did. I was required to teach that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and other untruths, and to always paint the President in a favorable light without giving real opposing views.

My next step is to go to the Supreme Court, but I need help. If you care about your right of free speech, please tell everyone you know about this new view of freedom.

Deb Mayer

She added that the Garcetti v. Ceballos Supreme Court decision last summer served to silence government workers nationwide, herself included. Mayer requested that we do all we can to stem the tide and push for the reversal of what she sees as a unconstitutional decision. She pleaded, "Please help save free speech at school. Call your school board. Write letters to the editor. Talk about it while you still have the freedom."


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Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at

Dave Anderson
Vice President of Civic Programs
McCormick Foundation

Tim McNulty
Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project

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