News Story

Teacher Fired For Dissing Liberals, U-M Prof Got Raises After ‘I Hate Republicans’

To save his job, district demanded teacher admit he was wrong

In 2014, University of Michigan professor Susan J. Douglas wrote a column for a website, carrying the title “It’s Okay to Hate Republicans.”

The first line in her column was, “I hate Republicans.” She later described her feeling as loathing.

The online headline on the website InTheseTimes was later changed to “We Can’t All Get Along.

The University of Michigan did not publicly rebuke Douglas for her hate speech. Instead, U-M spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the university saw it as a “free speech issue.”

Since posting that column, Douglas’ salary has increased, going from $178,786 in 2013 to $215,387 in 2019. That’s 9% above the rate of inflation.

The incident involving Douglas contrasts sharply with that of another Michigan education professional, a Walled Lake Consolidated Schools teacher who tweeted, “Liberals suck, man.”

Walled Lake teacher Justin Kucera’s experience began when he posted a tweet stating, “Trump is our president.” This generated negative responses, which Kucera then engaged. District administrators decided to fire him for including “Liberals suck, man” in one of his responses, saying it reflected poor judgment. Kucera had deleted the tweet but administrators were sent screen shots of it.

Emails obtained from a Freedom of Information Act request show that school administrators grilled Kucera, asking him about the impact of his tweets on the school community.

“I stated that based on the disruption his Tweet had caused in the school community that he will be offered the chance to resign or we will move forward with termination,” an administrator stated in a July 9 email sent to other administrators. “If he resigns I would be willing to give him a neutral letter of recommendation, continue his health benefits through the end of August, and that I would not contest unemployment. If he chooses to be terminated then I would have to make different choices.”

The district sent a letter to Kucera on July 17, telling him he was fired “due to your lack of Professional Judgement.”

In a document titled, “[Superintendent] Ken Gutman Summary of Meetings with Justin Kucera,” the district superintendent said Kucera had a previous incident of “poor judgement.”

Kucera’s personnel file has one incident, which noted he didn’t show up for class and didn’t notify anyone. That was in October 2019.

“We determined that given Mr. Kucera had a previous incident of poor judgement and that he was still in his probationary period, this second demonstration of poor professional judgment in a relatively short period of time was sufficient grounds for termination,” Gutman stated.

Gutman then described how he had second thoughts about firing Kucera, writing it was the “liberals suck, man” tweet that caused his dismissal, not his support of Trump.

Gutman wrote that Kucera could return to teaching in the district if he admitted he was wrong, took a suspension without pay and made a promise to do better. He stated that Kucera declined because he was concerned that the incident would damage his ability to be an effective teacher.

The information in this story came from a Freedom of Information Act sent to the Walled Lake Consolidated Schools.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.