Teacher sues Florida district after contract is not renewed

Former adviser says newspaper controversy led to his removal

FLORIDA -- The former faculty adviser for a student newspaper filed suit against the Palm Beach County School District in October, alleging he was removed from his teaching position because of controversial articles in the student newspaper.

Toby Eichas said the school failed to renew his contract after he resigned from his adviser position.

The problems began during the 1998-99 school year when Boca Raton High School's student newspaper, The Predator, published several controversial columns containing Jewish stereotypes and sexual innuendoes.

After the controversial columns were published, principal Diana Harris demanded to review every issue of the newspaper before publication.

In protest, Eichas resigned his adviser position, as did the student editor. Harris later told Eichas that his teaching contract would not be renewed.

Eichas filed his lawsuit in October in the Palm Beach County Circuit Court. The suit is now in federal court, said his lawyer Charles Wender.

The school district is asking the judge to dismiss the case, claiming that Eichas' speech was not protected under the constitution because it was a private matter between the principal and him, Wender said.

The principal's failure to renew Eichas's contract "was retaliation for his speaking up on behalf of the students," Wender said. "There is no question about that."

reports, Spring 2000