Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Kiracofe, Christine

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations (LEPF)


With the Supreme Court’s 2006 ruling in Garcetti v. Cebellos, this study examines how Garcetti has impacted K-12 public school teachers’ First Amendment free speech protections. Garcetti added a threshold layer to an established test courts had been guided to use—since 1968—when evaluating whether teachers qualified for First Amendment protection when speaking out. Garcetti has guided courts to first consider whether a public employee was speaking pursuant to their official duties prior to ruling on whether a teacher’s speech was a matter of public concern. The Supreme Court ruled when a public employee is speaking pursuant to their official duties, First Amendment protections would not apply. Garcetti involved a deputy district attorney; however, it is the standard public employee free speech threshold that is also applied to K-12 public school teachers. Since the Garcetti decision, very few public school teachers have realized First Amendment free speech protections.

This study examines relevant U.S. District Court and U.S. Circuit Court decisions post-Garcetti to determine the impact Garcetti has had on K-12 public school teachers’ free speech protections. This study reviews relevant case law and related literature regarding public school teacher free speech rulings. Understanding the Garcetti decision is critical if school administrators wish to avoid possible litigation when contemplating discipline against a teacher for their speech.


215 pages




Northern Illinois University

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