Steven Lysenko clearly is not part of the Blue Lives Matter movement. Lysenko was shown recently on a video screaming “F**k the Police” and other profanities. That is a common form of political expression. The problem is that, in addition to be anti-police, Lysenko is the assistant principal of Spencerport High School. As will come as no surprise to readers of this blog, I do not support Lysenko’s views but I strongly oppose those who want to discipline or fire him because of his exercise of free speech.
In the video, Lysenko was part of protests that followed the death of Daniel Prude in Rochester, New York, which we discussed earlier. The death raises very serious and disturbing questions of police abuse and racial justice.
In the videotape, Lysenko (who teaches outside of Rochester) is denouncing the response of the police to the protest by saying “We didn’t do anything but chant and sing,” Lysenko says in the video clip. “Our peacekeepers ended up shooting pepper spray at us for singing and chanting and telling them what a s—-y-assed job they were doing. They can f— right off America! F— the police. F— Rochester Police Department.” Not to forget his manners, he then ends with “thank you.”
In response, the Spencerport Central School District released a statement that, although the district supports “racial equality and systemic change,” it does not condone an employee using profane language on social media. Accordingly, “This will be addressed as a confidential, personnel matter.”
The controversy has divided the community with some calling for Lysenko to be fired while thousands of others signed a change.org petition in support of him.
Lysenko has been outspoken in his support of Black Lives Matter. On June 3 on Twitter, he declared “To any students-past or present-who follow me here: know that when you post “#WhiteLivesMatter, you are condoning White Supremacy. I that I will not abide!”
That last statement raises an issue of what Lysenko means by not “abiding” opposing views. However, so long as such intolerance is not displayed at school, Lysenko should be free to express his views outside of his employment. In the video, he identifies himself not as an assistant principal but an officer with a local anti-racism group.
Here is the video: Lysenko video
We have previously seen teachers (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here,and here) students (here, here and here) and other public employees (here and here and here) fired for their private speech or conduct, including school employees fired for posing in magazines (here), appearing on television shows in bikinis (here), or having a prior career in the adult entertainment industry (here). We previously discussed the Vermont principal who was removed for expressing her opinion of Black Lives Matter on her personal Facebook page. We also recently discussed the firing of a Michigan coach who expressed support for President Trump. However, this did not begin with the recent protests. We also discussed a teacher who threatened other teachers who supported police.
I hope that all of the roughly 4000 signatories to the petition in support of Lysenko would oppose his firing even if the controversial statement were flipped. I doubt that but from a free speech perspective it does not matter. The price of free speech is tolerance for views that we may find offensive or disturbing. Unlike Lysenko, we do “abide” opposing views. Some may not deserve free speech protections but they are protected nonetheless.