Nichols Middle School teacher “abused taxpayer resources” sending politically charged email
Middle school teacher “abused taxpayer resources” sending politically charged email
Brigette Evans, a language arts teacher at Nichols Middle School, sent a politically charged email to her colleagues using the school’s email server, a practice that government watchdog groups say is an “abuse of taxpayer resources" and a violation of the Illinois Constitution.
It’s unclear if her email also violated Evantson/Skokie District 65 policy. Calls and emails to the district were not returned. But other Illinois school districts, including Chicago Public Schools (CPS), prohibit using the district’s email for “partisan political activities.”
In the Oct. 8 email, obtained by North Cook News, Evans wrote to the Nichols staff:
“Troubled by the recent political climate of our country, I did some writing, hoping that it would provide some sort of relief. I would like to share it with you. My apologies if anyone feels as if I have imposed on their political beliefs.”
The body of the letter then begins with the salutation “To My Future Granddaughters.” In the letter she fears for their rights as women, with Senate approval of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
“Somehow, and I do speak with a voice of uncertainty,” she wrote, “as I did not vote for our current president nor do I stand in favor of the man who was recently voted to sit on the Supreme Court a position, I might add, that has the potential of lasting through the birth of your own daughter somehow our country seems to be willing, ready, and able to cast a shadow on what it has meant to be a woman in this country.”
She goes on to compare President Donald Trump less than favorably to President Barack Obama, “who had skin that matched yours.”
She ends with “Loving you fiercely, Your Anticipated Grandmother.”
Kirk Allen, of the Edgar County Watchdogs (ECW), told North Cook News that Evans violated Article VIII, Section 1, of the Illinois Constitution, which says that public funds and property have to be used for public purposes.
“The utilization of public property is a clear abuse of taxpayer resources,” he said.
Allen said that ECW has uncovered numerous other instances where public employees use public property for private or political purposes.
District 65 Superintendent Paul Goren did not return a call seeking comment on whether Evans would be disciplined for improper use of the school’s email.
Evans could claim a right to free speech if disciplined by the district, a First Amendment expert said, but the use of the school email might undermine her claim.
“Teachers like everyone else have a right to free speech,” said David Snyder, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition. “But they have more constraints than others when acting in their official capacities.”
He said it’s unclear if the use of the school’s email would be interpreted by a court as meaning she acted in her official capacity.
Evans did not return an email request for comment.