Report from Louisiana: Free Speech or Sexual Harassment?

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Report from Louisiana: Free Speech or Sexual Harassment?

By: Pat Austin

BATON ROUGE – There’s a case out of Baton Rouge that might
be inter­est­ing to watch: a for­mer LSU pro­fes­sor has asked
the 5th Cir­cuit Court of Appeals to review her case
.

Teresa Buchanan taught ele­men­tary edu­ca­tion stu­dents with a
spe­cial­iza­tion in early child­hood edu­ca­tion. She was ter­mi­nated in 2015 for “using
vul­gar­ity, and talk­ing about her sex life and the sex lives of stu­dents in her
ele­men­tary edu­ca­tion classes.” She says
it’s a free speech issue and that her lan­guage was not
directed at any one stu­dent
.

Her con­tro­ver­sial com­ments included say­ing “f*** no” repeat­edly in front of stu­dents, using a slang word for vagina that implies cow­ardice, and jok­ing that the qual­ity of sex declines the longer a rela­tion­ship lasts.

A three judge panel from the 5th Cir­cuit rejected
the case in 2018 and now Buchanan is request­ing a full-​court review.

Buchanan
says
she never harassed any­one and that every­thing she ever said in the
class­room was just straight, blunt talk and “appro­pri­ate to the context.”

Every­thing that they accused me of had to do with things that I had said as part of my teach­ing meth­ods,” said Buchanan, not­ing that no stu­dent ever accused her of sex­u­ally harass­ing them. Rather, her approach was designed to enable new teach­ers cope with teach­ing in the real world, and doing so at some times involved the use of harsh lan­guage.

The uni­ver­sity dis­agrees and says that Buchanan cre­ated a
hos­tile learn­ing envi­ron­ment in her classroom.

It comes down to a free-​speech and a sexual-​harassment issue.
Buchanan’s team claims that because LSU’s sex­ual harass­ment poli­cies are “too
broad” that this is really about free speech while the 5th Circuit’s
ini­tial rul­ing claimed
that
LSU did not vio­late Buchanan’s free speech rights by ter­mi­nat­ing her
because Buchanan was not speak­ing on a mat­ter of pub­lic concern.”

It might be impor­tant to remem­ber that Buchanan was talk­ing to
adults, not early child­hood stu­dents. Is this just another case of eas­ily
trig­gered snowflakes? It is clear that free-​speech
has been threat­ened on col­lege cam­puses
for quite some time.

It could be a few weeks before the Court makes a
deter­mi­na­tion whether to hear Buchanan’s case.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it goes in Shreve­port and is the author of Cane River Bohemia. Fol­low her on Insta­gram @patbecker25 and Twit­ter @paustin110.

By:  Pat Austin

BATON ROUGE – There’s a case out of Baton Rouge that might be interesting to watch: a former LSU professor has asked the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to review her case

Teresa Buchanan taught elementary education students with a specialization in early childhood education. She was terminated in 2015 for “using vulgarity, and talking about her sex life and the sex lives of students in her elementary education classes.”  She says it’s a free speech issue and that her language was not directed at any one student.

Her controversial comments included saying “f*** no” repeatedly in front of students, using a slang word for vagina that implies cowardice, and joking that the quality of sex declines the longer a relationship lasts.

A three judge panel from the 5th Circuit rejected the case in 2018 and now Buchanan is requesting a full-court review.

Buchanan says she never harassed anyone and that everything she ever said in the classroom was just straight, blunt talk and “appropriate to the context.”

Everything that they accused me of had to do with things that I had said as part of my teaching methods,” said Buchanan, noting that no student ever accused her of sexually harassing them. Rather, her approach was designed to enable new teachers cope with teaching in the real world, and doing so at some times involved the use of harsh language.

The university disagrees and says that Buchanan created a hostile learning environment in her classroom.

It comes down to a free-speech and a sexual-harassment issue. Buchanan’s team claims that because LSU’s sexual harassment policies are “too broad” that this is really about free speech while the 5th Circuit’s initial ruling claimed that “LSU did not violate Buchanan’s free speech rights by terminating her because Buchanan was not speaking on a matter of public concern.”

It might be important to remember that Buchanan was talking to adults, not early childhood students. Is this just another case of easily triggered snowflakes?   It is clear that free-speech has been threatened on college campuses for quite some time.

It could be a few weeks before the Court makes a determination whether to hear Buchanan’s case.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia.  Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.