MILWAUKEE, Wis. - A high-school teacher who was fired for viewing pornography for 67 seconds on a school computer on a Sunday morning has filed a $9 million civil rights lawsuit against the school district.
Former Cedarburg High School teacher Robert Zellner, who is asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to reinstate him, claims he was searching for adult images to determine whether the school district had installed software to block inappropriate material.
Defendants in the suit filed Wednesday are the Cedarburg School District, the district's lawyer, the superintendent, an administrator and School Board President John Pendergast.
Pendergast declined to comment, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Michael Erhard, Zellner's lawyer, said he believes school officials fired Zellner to intimidate the union in which he was actively involved. He said the union has been marginalized since Zellner's firing.
Erhard said Zellner's Google image search using the word "blonde," which returned pictures and information advertising pornographic websites, was "relatively innocuous and was blown totally out of proportion."
The complaint alleges that the defendants violated Zellner's free-speech rights with regard to his union activities, as well as his due-process rights, considering the manner in which he was terminated. The suit asks for $9 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
Zellner has applied for about a half-dozen teaching positions in the Milwaukee area since being terminated, Erhard said, but the school districts have chosen to not hire him after learning of the grounds for his termination.