Teacher Who Disobeyed Silence Law Loses Court Fight
A judge declined Friday to order the reinstatement of a social studies teacher who refused to obey a moment-of-silence law at the start of his class.
U.S. District Judge Frank Hull rejected Brian Bown’s request for a preliminary injunction against the Gwinnett County school district. The district said Bown was merely suspended with pay from South Gwinnett High School pending a Sept. 6 hearing before the county school board.
Bown, 41, who says he was fired, had said earlier he would abide by whatever the judge decided. He has also filed a federal lawsuit challenging the law, which went into effect July 1.
Bown, who contends that the law is an unconstitutional attempt to return prayer to the classroom, had continued a lecture during the “quiet reflection” period Monday, the first day of school. He left Tuesday after telling administrators he would not comply.
Phil Hartley, an attorney for the district, said Bown’s disruptive behavior prompted the suspension.
The school district contends that the new law, which requires that all schools observe a daily “moment of quiet reflection on the anticipated activities,” does not violate Bown’s rights.
Instead, school officials say, Bown could have simply left the classroom after the principal announced the beginning of the 40-second interval over the intercom.
“He is not mandated to do anything. A teacher is not required to enforce, implement or enact this law,” Hartley told the court.
“He chose to disrupt his class, talking with students about his own beliefs and his philosophy. He did this for his own personal agenda.”
Hartley also said the incident occurred after the high school principal had told Bown: “You are not to disrupt the moment; you are not to disrupt the classroom.”