A community college student has filed a lawsuit claiming a public speaking professor berated him and refused to let him finish a speech opposing same-sex marriage.
In the suit filed last week in a Los Angeles federal court, student Jonathan Lopez said that, midway through his speech when he recited a dictionary definition of marriage and recited a pair of Bible verses, professor John Matteson cut him off, called him a “fascist bastard” and would not allow him to finish.
The suit says Matteson told students they could leave if they were offended, and, when no one left, he dismissed the class.
A student evaluation form included with the lawsuit lacks a score for Lopez’s speech and reads “ask God what your grade is.”
Lopez and his attorneys are seeking financial damages and also seek to strike down a code at Los Angeles City College forbidding students from making statements deemed “offensive.”
Lopez made the speech last November, days after the passage of Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California.
“He was expressing his faith during an open-ended assignment, but, when the professor disagreed with some minor things he mentioned, the professor shut him down,” David J. Hacker, an attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal organization based in Scottsdale, Ariz., that is representing Lopez, told The Los Angeles Times. “Basically, colleges and universities should give Christian students the same rights to free expression as other students.”
In a letter to Alliance, Dean Allison Jones said she had met with Lopez, considered his complaint “extremely serious in nature,” and had begun a disciplinary investigation. Jones said in the letter that she could not elaborate because of concerns for Matteson’s privacy.
Jones wrote that two students had been “deeply offended” by the speech, and one of them said “this student should have to pay some price for preaching hate in the classroom.”
The lawsuit names Matteson, the Los Angeles Community College District, its board of trustees, and several administrators.
Phone and e-mail messages left for Matteson were not immediately returned early Monday, and the offices of the Los Angeles Community College District were closed for the Presidents Day holiday.
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The broad-stroked definition of “bullying” may have “highjacked” the “anti-gay hate crime” movement and replaced it with an “anti-bullying” campaign; a watered-down, heterosexualized and whitewashed version, but I believe it did so for good reason. Unapologetic discussions of power relationships may be sound intellectual discourse, but I doubt it is any way to run a school while creating the civility that fosters learning.
In my opinion, discussion about bullying should not mention “gay” unless the student is ready to discuss it publicly, so I favor the “whitewash” version. “Bullying” is a readily accessible concept, and it also deals with the question “why don’t you fight back.” In a large number of cases bullying reflects the situation where a student is unable or unwilling to respond to aggressive challenges. Wise cracks about a bro romance to an athletic and popular student are handled good naturally, while a “shy” student may tempt an escalation by not responding.
In other words, power is only part of the mix.
The anti-bullying movement establishes a new ethic, when a student is out-matched, the moral obligation is to help the weaker. The old ethic was to tell the student get a smart answer or “push him back” blaming the victim.
Finally, the other great virtue of the “whitewashed” version is that deals with bullying as a recurring problem. Gay-straight clubs recognize that a safe environment is needed to discuss sexuality, but assume that hostility will exist, but it’s nice to have friends to comfort you. Bullying enables teachers and students to find a positive outcome for the negativity that creeps into our lives.
January 30, 2013 at 3:58 pm
I wholeheartedly agree with this article. This anti-bullying “movement” has done little to teach kids the core issues underpinning bullying. Because of this young people just see it as the “it” social movement, but in many cases, away from the eyes of adults, behavior isn’t changing.
January 30, 2013 at 10:21 pm
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Could training in implicit bias be helpful at your institution?