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Teacher Fired for Viewing Porn Sues District

Teacher Fired for Viewing Porn Sues District
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Apr 24, 2008 8:00 AM PDT    Text size: 
MILWAUKEE — Robert Zellner, a former teacher and union leader fired from his job in Cedarburg, Wis., for viewing adult material on a school computer, filed a $9 million civil rights lawsuit in federal court last week.

In another suit, Zellner is asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to return him to his job.

Zellner said he did a search that turned up the adult images only because he wanted to see if the school district had installed blocking software. The statement in the suit is the first time that Zellner has explained publicly why he viewed the adult images for 67 seconds on a Sunday.

The defendants in the suit are the Cedarburg School District, the district's lawyer, the superintendent, an administrator and School Board President John Pendergast.

Pendergast declined to comment to reporters.

Zellner's lawyer in the federal suit is Michael Erhard, a former state assistant attorney general. Erhard said Cedarburg school officials retaliated against Zellner for his union activities not only to get rid of Zellner but also to intimidate the union, which he described as having been marginalized since Zellner's firing.

Erhard said Zellner's Google images search of the word "blonde" — which turned up pictures and information advertising pornographic websites — was "relatively innocuous, and they distorted it totally out of proportion and they did it for the purpose of destroying him, and they did."

Zellner's complaint claims that the defendants violated his free speech rights in his union activities and his due process rights in the way he was terminated. It asks for $9 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

Erhard said Zellner has applied for "about a half-dozen" teaching positions in the Milwaukee area since being fired and has been a finalist for some of them. He said he believes Zellner was not hired because the school districts learned why he was fired.

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