Modesto Junior College (MJC) student Robert Van Tuinen has filed a free-speech lawsuit against the Yosemite Community College District and MJC administrators. Van Tuinen, an Army veteran, was prevented from handing out copies of the Constitution — on Constitution Day — because the small “free speech area” was in use.
When a Michigan math teacher faced sentencing for molesting an 8th-grade student in July, six teachers urged leniency in letters to the judge. A West Branch-Rose City school board member, married to a teacher, sat with molester Neal Erickson’s wife, also a teacher in court.
“Neal made a mistake,” writes (Sally) Campbell. “He allowed a mutual friendship to develop into much more. He realized his mistake and ended it years before someone anonymously sent something to the authorities which began this legal process.”
“I am asking that Neal be given the absolute minimum sentence, considering all the circumstances surrounding this case,” writes Amy Huber Eagan.
. . .“Neal has plead (sic) guilty for his one criminal offense but he is not a predator,” writes (Harriet) Coe. “This was an isolated incident. He understands the severity of his action and is sincere in his desire to make amends.”
One letter said the boy hadn’t been affected much by the molestation, which occurred over three years. Another said Erickson had been punished by losing his job.
Judge Michael Baumgartner, who sentenced Erickson to 15 to 30 years in prison, said he was “appalled and ashamed that the community could rally around” a child molester. “What you did was a jab in the eye with a sharp stick to every parent who trusts a teacher,” Baumgartner added.
The boy’s parents, John and Lori Janczewski, demanded that the teachers who supported their son’s molester be fired; they’ve started a recall campaign against the board member.
The board rejected firing the teachers at this week’s meeting, saying it would bring on a free-speech lawsuit. The board president read a letter signed by the six teachers:
“Dear community, criminal sexual conduct is a serious crime we do not condone. The safety of our students is our foremost concern. Our letters were never intended to cause any harm. We know the young man’s family is suffering, and empathize with their pain. It is our sincerest hope that the community will move forward for the sake of the students.”
Several parents threatened to pull their children out of WB-RC schools and send them to a charter school.
The family has been threatened for speaking out against the teachers, the victim’s father said on the Glenn Beck radio show. Their garage was fire bombed in the middle of the night and the letters “YWP” and “ITY” were spray painted on their house. John Janczewski thinks that may stand for “you will pay” and “I told you.”
I don’t think the board can fire teachers for supporting their former colleague — and his wife, who’s still teaching in the district. But teachers minimizing child molesting is shameful and appalling.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick named Gerald Chertavian, who founded a job training program, to chair the board of troubled Roxbury Community College, which has been plagued by mismanagement and scandal. A Boston “activist” claims only blacks should run a majority-black college. (Only 48 percent of students say they’re black, but there seems to be a lot of decline-to-state students.)
An Iowa community college has paid nearly $14,000 to settle a free-speech lawsuit by a student who was barred from handing out flyers criticizing college funding for a conference on gay youth.
The Obama administration’s move to “dramatically undermine students’ and faculty rights at colleges across the country” is another government scandal, writes Greg Lukianoff of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) in the Wall Street Journal.
The Education Department and Justice Department rewrote the federal government’s rules about sexual harassment and free speech on campus in a May 9 letter to the University of Montana. To retain federal funding, colleges and universities must punish
“unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” including “verbal conduct,” otherwise known as speech.
Till now, sexual harassment had to be “objectively offensive” to a “reasonable person.” That’s gone. Anyone who claims to be offended is a victim of harassment. Furthermore, colleges must respond to “student-on-student harassment” off campus and on, and may discipline the accused before the harassment charge has been investigated.
Last week’s letter is part of a decades-long effort by anti-”hate speech” professors, students, activists and administrators to classify any offensive speech as harassment unprotected by the First Amendment. Such speech codes reached their height in the 1980s and 1990s, but they were defeated in federal and state court and came in for public ridicule.
Still, a FIRE survey of 409 colleges this year found 62 percent maintain speech codes that violate First Amendment standards. Students aren’t the only victims.
In 2011, the University of Denver suspended a professor and found him guilty of sexual harassment because his class discussion on sexual taboos in American culture (in a graduate-level course) was considered too racy. Last year, Appalachian State University suspended a professor for creating a “hostile environment” after she criticized the university’s treatment of sexual-assault cases involving student-athletes and screened a documentary critical of the adult-film industry.
The government’s sweeping definition of sexual harassment will extend to other forms of speech, Lukianoff predicts.
At Tufts in 2007, a conservative student publication was found guilty of harassment for criticizing Islam. The same happened to a professor at Purdue University at Calumet in 2012, who faced a four-month investigation.
University administrators live in fear of discrimination and harassment lawsuits and costly investigations by the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, Lukianoff writes. You could call it harassment.
A graduate education student at Syracuse University, Matthew Werenczak signed up to tutor at a predominantly black middle school. On his first day, a community leader said the school should hire teachers from historically black colleges.
“Just making sure we’re okay with racism,” wrote Werenczak on his Facebook page. “It’s not enough I’m … tutoring in the worst school in the city, I suppose I oughta be black or stay in my own side of town.”
The School of Education expelled him for “unprofessional, offensive, and insensitive” comments. When FIRE went public with the case, he was readmitted and earned his master’s degree.
John asks Mary for a date. She says no. The request was unwelcome, so he’s a sexual harasser. Professor Smith discusses the risk of HIV transmission through anal sex, making one of his 500 students uncomfortable. He’s a sexual harasser. Just about everyone on campus is guilty of sexual harassment under rules set out May 9 by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education, charges the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).
The University of Montana’s mishandling of sexual assault charges – assault, not jokes — triggered a Letter of Findings and Resolution Agreement intended to be “a blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country.” The DOJ and DOE declared that sexual harassment should be defined as “any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” including “verbal conduct” (speech).
It then explicitly states that allegedly harassing expression need not even be offensive to an “objectively reasonable person of the same gender in the same situation”—if the listener takes offense to sexually related speech for any reason, no matter how irrationally or unreasonably, the speaker may be punished.
Without a “reasonable person” standard, anyone can silence anyone else by claiming to be offended. FIRE lists some “forms of expression now punishable on America’s campuses by order of the federal government.”
Any expression related to sexual topics that offends any person. This leaves a wide range of expressive activity—a campus performance of “The Vagina Monologues,” a presentation on safe sex practices, a debate about sexual morality, a discussion of gay marriage, or a classroom lecture on Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita—subject to discipline.
Any sexually themed joke overheard by any person who finds that joke offensive for any reason.
Any request for dates or any flirtation that is not welcomed by the recipient of such a request or flirtation.
Colleges and university that take federal funds — nearly all of them — must try to enforce the rule. ”The federal government has put colleges and universities in an impossible position with this mandate,” said FIRE’s Greg Lukianoff. “The DOJ and DOE have doomed American campuses to years of confusion and expensive lawsuits.” And the federal letter misquoted a Supreme Court opinion to mandate an unconstitutional rule, he added.
Punishment may be required before a disciplinary hearing, writes Hans Bader, citing the letter of findings.
a university must take immediate steps to protect the complainant from further harassment prior to the completion of the Title IX and Title IV investigation/resolution. Appropriate steps may include separating the accused harasser and the complainant, providing counseling for the complainant and/or harasser, and/or taking disciplinary action against the harasser.
It appears that zero tolerance extends from sexual speech and dating requests to speech about the transgendered, writes Bader. “Gender-based harassment” is defined as “non-sexual harassment of a person because of the person’s sex and/or gender, including, but not limited to, harassment based on the person’s nonconformity with gender stereotypes.”
In a 2001 case, Saxe v. State College Area School District, an evangelical Christian successfully challenged a harassment policy that “forbade certain criticisms of homosexuality,” Bader writes.
If Saxe is kaput, any discussion of homosexuality could be banned. Mary speaks up for gay rights. John says her speech is unwelcome, gender-based verbal conduct that he finds offensive. He doesn’t have to be a “reasonable person” to make her guilty of harassment. Of course, she’s offended by the fact that he’s offended, so he’s a sexual harasser once again.
Update: Eugene Volokh, a UCLA law professor, has more on federally mandated speech codes.
A West Virginia 14-year-old is back in middle school — wearing a National Rifle Association T-shirt — after being suspended and arrested for refusing to take it off last week. On Monday, Jared Marcum and about 100 other Logan County students wore shirts with gun rights themes provided by the Sons of the Second Amendment, a gun rights group.
Jared, an eighth grader at Logan Middle School, attended his morning classes wearing a shirt with an NRA logo, a picture of a hunting rifle and the slogan, “Protect your right.” He was standing in a cafeteria line when a teacher told him to turn his shirt inside out. He refused. He was sent to the office, where he again refused to remove the shirt, and arrested on charges of disrupting the educational process and obstructing an officer. He was released to his mother and suspended for a day.
Jared’s attorney, Ben White, said video evidence shows the cafeteria was orderly until the teacher raised his voice while confronting Jared. “I think the disruption came from the teacher,” he said, predicting all charges will be dropped.
The student believes the Second Amendment is being threatened and wore the shirt as an “expression of political speech,” White said.
“What the video shows is that students did step up on the benches to the tables in the lunchroom when they were escorting Jared out of building. Kids jumped up, clapping. Teachers said to get off and be quiet, and they did.”
Logan County schools’ dress code bans clothing and accessories that display profanity, violence, discriminatory messages or sexual language, along with ads for alcohol, tobacco or drugs.
Jared is an honor roll student who plans a career in the military, his attorney said. The 14-year-old certainly understands his legal rights.
A veteran Chicago teacher is suing to reverse a four-day suspension for bringing a pocket knife to school. Douglas Bartlett showed second graders the knife, a box cutter, various wrenches, screwdrivers and pliers “as part of a curriculum-mandated ‘tool discussion’,” his lawsuit states.