SMITHVILLE, OH - The ACLU has sent a letter to the Green Local School Board demanding the reinstatement of a teacher the organization claims was removed from his job 'because he opposed dairy farming, on his personal Facebook page, on his own time.'
Keith Allison was a second grade title one teacher working with small groups of kids, needing extra help to catch up with their peers in math and language arts skills.
He says he was well liked and well respected.
"I love the Smithville Schools. I've had great interactions with the kids, with parents, with the teachers I work with. They've got a great staff there, amazing teachers. The kids are wonderful, great parents. Yeah and I have enjoyed a lot of support from the teachers, a lot of encouraging words from them, from the parents, from my supervisors, and things were going really well," said Allison.
Away from work, Allison is also a vegan and animal rights advocate, who openly posts his beliefs on his personal Facebook page.
In August, he says he was riding his bicycle by a local dairy farm, later returning to take a picture from his car, which he posted on his Facebook account.
The picture shows what he described as crates that are used to house baby cows who are separated from their mothers at birth.
"As someone who grew up feeling parental love and support, and now as a parent who gives love and support, I reject the claim that separating babies from loving mothers to raise them isolated in boxes can ever be considered humane," he wrote on the post.
It was after that he said the school district pulled his one-year contract when it was up for renewal.
"I was informed by my superintendent that the family that owns this farm had called and complained about it and expressed that they were upset and frightened about the post," said Allison
"The fact that their family's farm was in the picture, I guess, is where their complaint was coming from and from what I was told, they were fearful, afraid that someone might come and break their calf crates or free their cows and their children were not safe to be out in their yards," he told Fox 8.
"During the meeting with my superintendent, I was informed we live in a large agrucultural area, which is true, and that a lot of our money for the schools comes through residents of the community and that I needed to be very careful of what i put on (Facebook) because I might offend the community and the economic interests of the community," said Allison, adding, "I was also told that I could have any personal beliefs I want to have, but if I want to be a strong Vegan advocate, I might want to look into doing something other than teaching."
The ACLU argues that Allison's Facebook post is protected free speech.
"Mr. Allison's speech was as a private citizen on a topic of political and social concern to the public at large, and as such, is given the highest level of protection," wrote Robinson's attorney, Joseph Mead.
"However much a community member or the superintendent might disagree with Mr. Allison's speech, they cannot force his removal because of it," he insists.
District Superintendent Judy Robinson told Fox 8 News she could not make any comment about the matter, in part because the letter from the ACLU "serves to confirm that litigation is imminent."
Allison says he is asking for his job back with back pay.
"We are asking for an apology from the school and to clarify their position, so this doesn't ever happen, not only to me, but to other teachers in the future," he concluded.