RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A former professor at the Governor’s School of North Carolina is suing the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, saying his First Amendment rights were violated.
Dr. David Phillips reported that he was fired from working at the Governor’s School West at Winston-Salem State University in 2021, after he hosted some controversial, optional lectures.
His attorney, Hal Frampton, told CBS17, all Phillips wants is to go back and teach at the Governor’s School again.
He believes it’s import that students have access to different viewpoints and ways of thinking.
In the 61-page lawsuit filed Friday in Wake County Superior Court, the events leading up to, and after the day Phillips was fired from his position at the school, are detailed extensively.
“He offered a series of optional seminars, trying to foster intellectual diversity in those seminars,” explained Frampton, senior counsel for the Center for Conscience Initiatives at Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents Phillips. “He critiqued some concepts from critical race theory.”
The papers filed by the group indicate after eight years of working as an English educator at the accelerated academic summer program, Phillips started to get some pushback.
Despite using materials from his previous curriculums, some students and staff were not happy with his lectures.
Phillips reported he stayed behind each lecture to answer questions, despite the concern.
But that wasn’t enough.
“The next thing you know, Dr. Phillips was unceremoniously fired, ironically, the day after he gave a seminar on the importance of viewpoint diversity in higher education,” said Frampton. “There was no… ‘here’s what people are saying happened’…’can you tell us the real story?’ There was no investigation. Nothing that you would expect to see in a case like this.”
Frampton told CBS17 there were no previous disciplinary actions against Phillips and he had received glowing performance reviews in years prior.
He believes Phillips did not violate any policies.
“People were shocked to see him fired in that manner. He’s received a number of messages of support from folks afterwards,” added Frampton.
Phillips reported in the complaint that administrators would not explain why he was fired.
CBS17 reached out to the Department of Instruction officials to get some more details and received the following statement:
“The Department of Public Instruction maintains that it fully complied with all legal requirements. However, as this is a personnel matter, no additional information can be shared at this [time].”
Phillips and Frampton are concerned what this decision could mean for the next generation’s education.
“The biggest issue here is that schools should be in the business of fostering intellectual diversity, not firing people who disagree with the school’s point of view, that school should be a place where students are particularly something like the governor school that’s for the best and brightest college ready students, they should be learning to think for themselves,” said Frampton.
Phillips did apply to work at the school for the 2022 summer session but was rejected.
Officials at DPI have 30 days to respond to the lawsuit.