Former employees claim Muncie Community Schools violated First Amendment rights

(WISH Photo)

MUNCIE, Ind. (WISH) — Former employees of the Muncie Community Schools claim the district violated their first amendment rights. They have filed a lawsuit against the district, school board and superintendent.

A former teacher and administrator claim they were banned from school property after being outspoken and critical of leadership in the district.

There has been controversy and turmoil in the Muncie Community School district as leaders try to make up for a $15 million deficit. 24-Hour News 8 was there as people protested outside of school board meetings and waited in long lines to speak during public comment.

Two of the most outspoken and critical people are now no longer allowed on school property.

“We are dealing with two professional, life-long educators who have devoted their entire lives to education,” said Jason Delk, who represents the two former employees.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Kay Rankin and Mike Ryan.

Rankin worked in the district for more than 41 years, serving as a teacher, coach and volunteer. Ryan worked in the district for 35 years as a teacher and administrator.

In February, both received a letter saying they were banned from school property due to “disruptive conduct.”

“Frankly, as a result of them just raising their constitutionally protected displeasure with what’s happening, they’ve now been banned from the very place in which they devoted their entire lives,” said Delk.

Ryan often wore T-shirts to board meetings that said, “BAULE MUST GO! (Your rights could be next).” He also placed a sign with a similar message along a Muncie street.

Using meetings, public gatherings and social media, both Ryan and Rankin have publicly called for the firing of Muncie’s superintendent, Dr. Steven Baule. Their attorney argues the actions are protected under the First Amendment. He said he’s not sure what the district considers “disruptive behavior.”

“That’s the literally the million-dollar question. We have asked, prior to the lawsuit being filed, ‘Can you identify the disruptive behavior?’ We are yet to hear one thing,” said Delk.

The lawsuit calls for damages and a rescission of the ban on entering school property. A district spokesperson told 24-Hour News 8 that they would not be commenting on the case.

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