Who is Jeanne Hedgepeth? Illinois teacher fired for anti-BLM post files civil rights lawsuit
An Illinois teacher who was fired for criticizing the Black Lives Matter riots in Chicago spoke out this week about her legal battle with the school district and how lawyers were reluctant to take her case.
Jeanne Hedgepeth, 58, insisted she was not guilty after the school board voted to expel her for a social media post they claimed "harm[ed] students". The Schaumburg Illinois high school teacher wondered if other teachers were also being monitored or disciplined by school boards or unions for their views.
The 20-year-veteran teacher took to social media over Memorial Day weekend last year to deplore the rioting and looting that resulted in millions of dollars worth of damages in downtown Chicago, which is nearby her hometown. The violence over the weekend, sparked by the death of George Floyd, also saw 10 people killed and 49 people shot in the Windy City. Hedgepeth shared a beach photo on Facebook a day before she was due to return home, writing, “I don’t want to go home tomorrow. Now that the Civil War has begun, I want to move."
Following her controversial termination, a civil rights lawsuit was filed by Judicial Watch — a Washington-based government accountability advocacy group — to dispute the decision. It named several district and school board members, as well as the Human Resources Director. Speaking to Fox News host Laura Ingraham on her show 'Ingraham Angle', Hedgepeth said she was not a racist person but was "freaked out" that people were supporting the rioting. During a social media discussion, a critic allegedly told her to “shut up with (her) white privilege."
“I have worked for the district for 20 years. I took pride in my work. I loved my job and students. I am the sole supporter of my daughter. I was really upset about the rioting,” Hedgepeth told Ingraham. “Protesting we need more, but rioting: none. People were supporting (the rioting and) it was freaking me out. I made a few comments,” she explained. “I had a conversation with a young lady who told me to shut up with my white privilege.”
The embattled teacher faced backlash from several others who viewed her online comments, but she protested inaccurate descriptions of herself and objected to being called racist. “I might have more conservative views but there is nothing racist about what I said. Of course, I am being accused of being a racist which I have no history of whatsoever,” she said.
Erin Holmes, director of communications for the school district, told 'The Ingraham Angle' that she was aware of the lawsuit but couldn't "comment on any details" at this point since "it is a legal issue". Meanwhile, Hedgepeth's lawyer Christine Svenson told the show that her client was justified for being “terrified as an American citizen”. “She teaches a diversity of opinion in her classes. The board found she was harming students and talking about racial issues… I wonder this: Are they going through the social media posts of all of the other teachers?” Svenson asked.
Hedgepeth said she is currently in contact with only two of her previous colleagues and that both are "terrified" by the case. “They are scared. Everyone is scared,” she said. The veteran educator struggled to find a lawyer who would take her case. She likened her situation to that of former president Donald Trump, who saw personal attorneys like former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani "demonized". "I called many lawyers and many people don't want to touch it – Even Trump's lawyers got demonized. It's ok if you are a murderer but you can't defend a teacher?" Hedgepeth asked.