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SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — A magistrate says critical letters a Sioux City schoolteacher sent to her superintendent and others are free speech, not harassment.

The Sioux City Journal reports that Woodbury County Magistrate Jessica Noll dismissed the six counts of misdemeanor harassment filed against West Middle School teacher Julie Fischer. Fischer had been placed on paid leave last summer after she was charged.

Noll said in her ruling Monday that those who received Fischer's letters "may have interpreted the messages as offensive and insulting. However, criticizing colleagues is a legitimate purpose." The letters to Superintendent Paul Gausman and other administrators and teachers were critical of their competency and actions.

Woodbury County Attorney Patrick Jennings says the ruling is disappointing and says his office is reviewing it to determine whether to appeal.

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District spokeswoman Mandie Mayo says the district hasn't made a final decision on Fischer's employment.

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Information from: Sioux City Journal, http://www.siouxcityjournal.com

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