Transferred h.s. adviser sues district, asks to be reinstated

INDIANA — Franklin Central High School administrators removed Chad Tuley from his position as the student newspaper adviser in November over the publication of a story about a Franklin student charged with murder.

Now, after serving a suspension and continuing to teach English at the school, Tuley is suing the school district to get his position back.

Tuley’s clash with the school’s administrators began when Pilot Flashes, the school’s student newspaper, published a story about a student who was arrested on charges of stabbing a man to death in October. District officials opposed the publication of the story because the sister of the student facing the charges attended the school.

District officials said Principal Kevin Koers told Tuley not to print the article. Tuley admitted Koers expressed concerns but said he was never told not to publish the story. After the story’s publication, the district suspended him and removed him as the adviser, citing insubordination.

Tuley said he initially accepted his removal as adviser because he was concerned about losing his teaching position. But after students began asking him to fight the decision, he sent the district superintendent a letter requesting that he be reinstated.

“When I got back [from the suspension] I had a letter that was slid under my door,” he said. “It was signed, ‘Your faithful students,’ and they were arguing all the reasons why I should fight for my job back so I began to really think about that.”

After Superintendent E.B. Carver responded by saying the decision was not his to make, Tuley said he sent the letter to Koers, who did not give him a “yes or no” answer.

Tuley said he continued teaching English without hearing anything relating to his request to be reinstated until April, when he received a teaching evaluation written by English Department Chair James Zoch that Tuley described as “very negative.” The review, Tuley said, consisted of a recommendation that he remain an English teacher but mainly criticized his work as the newspaper adviser, specifically his decision to print the article that started the feud.

Tuley said he continued to try to solve the situation diplomatically, but after the district notified him that he would be transferred to the middle school, he decided to take legal action.

“[The transfer notice] let me know that not only were they sticking by what had already happened but they were going to keep doing further things to punish me,” he said.

The complaint, filed in Marion County Superior Court, claims the school violated Tuley’s First Amendment rights and asks the court to return him to his position at the high school as the paper’s adviser and an English teacher.

Tuley said he would also like to see a school board policy assuring the students’ First Amendment rights.

The school district did not return a call for comment.

Mike Hart

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