From Teacher Magazine (via the A.P):
Alfie Kohn Settles Suit
By The Associated Press
The state Department of Education acknowledged Monday it violated the free speech rights of a standardized test critic and agreed to pay him $187,000 to settle his lawsuit over being dumped as a speaker at a state-run conference.
Alfie Kohn, a former teacher who lectures widely, was asked to discuss his views on standardized tests, including the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment Systems test, at a 2001 conference on public schooling in the state’s western region.
Kohn said state education officials, after learning he planned to focus on his opposition to the MCAS, forced local organizers to cancel his speech after threatening to withdraw $28,000 in state funding. His lawsuit alleged that state officials violated his rights and kept others from hearing his views.
In a statement Monday, the education department acknowledged it had violated Kohn’s First Amendment rights. In a letter written as part of the settlement, the department said its position “is that vigorous debate about education issues is healthy and welcome.”
The suit was filed by the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Kohn, a school principal, a counselor and a parent. In the settlement, Kohn will receive $7,500 and his attorneys will get $179,500, the ACLU said.
In May, a Superior Court judge ordered the department to pay $155,000 to Kohn’s lawyers, ruling that officials violated his constitutional rights when they kept him from speaking at the conference. Mediators, however, persuaded the department to increase the amount, education department spokeswoman Heidi Guarino said.
“Our feeling is that this is a good resolution, we are glad to have this behind us and we are perfectly content with where things stand now,” Guarino said.
Kohn said in statement he, too, was happy to resolve the suit and is “hopeful that DOE’s newfound commitment to open discussion of education policies means that it will never again attempt to silence those who disagree with its policies — and that it will be open to considering the substantial evidence that indicates the MCAS testing program is doing more harm than good.”
In addition to lecturing, Kohn has written 11 books on education and parenting.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press.
Thomas J. Mertz