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Burbank teacher placed on administrative leave in clear violation of First Amendment rights

This morning a grievance was filed by the San Antonio Alliance and Martha Owen, Texas AFT General Counsel, against the Luther Burbank High School principal for her unconstitutional and retaliatory actions against Burbank teacher Luke Amphlett. Mr. Amphlett has been placed on administrative leave in retaliation for conducting the duties of a union steward at his school - activities that are clearly protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. As such, this attack on Mr. Amphlett constitutes an attack on all of us. The right to freely associate and organize is essential to a democratic society, and any attack on it should be resisted.

Martha Owen, Texas AFT General Counsel, stated, “This is a clear case of attempted union-busting and retaliation for activities that are protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.” Mr. Amphlett raised grave concerns about Burbank’s plan to reopen for face-to-face instruction, giving voice to fears widely shared at his campus. He asserted that educators’ primary responsibility is to protect human life and the health and safety of students, staff and the Burbank community, and, with other Burbank staff, stated that the plan as explained so far is not adequate to the task facing them.

In response, the Burbank administration placed Mr. Amphlett on administrative leave - an attack not only on his and other Burbank educators’ First Amendment rights, but on their ability to speak out about a matter of great public importance. School reopening plans impact the entire community. Discussion of these plans is in the public interest, and any attempt to stifle such discussion, intimidate educators into silence, or retaliate against them clearly violates the Constitution of the United States. Burbank administrators have created a climate of intimidation and fear of retaliation, and are attempting to use this retaliatory disciplinary action against Mr. Amphlett to bully other educators into silence at a moment when they should be most empowered to raise concerns. School leaders’ reopening decisions will directly impact the entire community and are literally a matter of life and death.

We call for Mr. Amphlett’s immediate reinstatement, and will take steps to ensure that his constitutional rights and those of all SAISD workers are protected.

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