A part of former Nashville Metro Schools Director Shawn Joseph’s severance agreement is unconstitutional.
This, according to the Nashville-based FOX 17 News, which reported that a Davidson County Chancery Court made the finding. The station reported that Metro Nashville School Board members Amy Frogge, Jill Speering, and Fran Bush “found issue with the nondisparagement clause in Dr. Joseph’s severance agreement” that said board members could not “make any disparaging or defamatory comments regarding Dr. Joseph and his performance as Director of Schools.”
The clause went on to say that “this provision shall be effective for the Board collectively and binding upon each Board member individually.”
“Dr. Joseph does not waive any right to institute litigation and seek damages against any Board member in his/her individual capacity,” the clause said.
According to FOX 17, Tuesday’s court order “declares that the clause violates First Amendment rights and is an ‘overbroad and unenforceable speech restriction.’ Any potential motions to dismiss the order by Dr. Joseph and Metro Government have been denied.”
As The Tennessee Star reported this month, the plaintiffs alleged that a clause in Joseph’s severance agreement violated their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The plaintiffs claimed that they were not able to talk truthfully with constituents, with one another and with others, and that the clause does not allow for “truthful criticism” of Joseph.
The school board bought out Joseph’s contract in April 2019, The Star reported at the time. Terms included allowing Joseph to earn his normal salary through July 31, 2019 and cutting him a check for $261,250.
Bush told The Star at the time that, “Under the law, you cannot silence or gag any elected official and violate our constitutional rights.”
She said Metro’s legal department knew the clause was allegedly illegal but they permitted the clause to be used.
“We do see a victory,” Bush said.
As reported last year, under Shawn’s leadership there were problems with the Metro Nashville Public Schools’ spending habits.
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