Judge Rules Against Ex-UNL Lecturer Who Claimed School Violated Her Rights After She Harassed Conservative Student Group
“I was denied justice and I still believe that my First Amendment right to freedom of expression was violated.”
A former lecturer at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln named Courtney Lawton sued the school claiming her First Amendment rights to free speech were violated when the school fired her for taking part in a political protest. A judge has disagreed.
We covered the incident that sparked this lawsuit.
In 2017, Lawton and other members of the teaching staff harassed members of the conservative student group Turning Point USA, who were exhibiting on campus. It was ugly:
U. Nebraska-Lincoln Profs Harass President of Turning Point on Campus
Turning Point USA, founded by conservative activist Charlie Kirk, is an organization aimed at teaching students about “fiscal responsibility, free markets, and limited governments.” Well, the president of the organization’s chapter at University of Nebraska-Lincoln received harassment as she recruited students on campus.
Worst part? PROFESSORS participated in the harassment. From Campus Reform:
According to chapter President Katie Mullen, at least three professors circled the table while carrying signs and yelling things like “f**k Charlie Kirk” and “TPUSA Nazis.”
Graduate teaching assistant Courtney Lawton was recorded yelling “Neo-fascist Becky right here. Wants to destroy public schools, public universities, hates DACA kids,” while giving the middle finger to the camera.
Here’s a video of Lawton. Bear in mind, according to the report linked below, this was eleven days after Lawton accepted her job assignment at the school:
U.S. District Judge Brian Buescher has ruled against Lawton’s claims.
KPVI News reports:
Judge rules against former lecturer in lawsuit alleging UNL violated her free speech rights
A judge has dismissed the lawsuit filed by a former University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate student and lecturer against the university alleging administrators violated her rights by removing her from teaching duties for participating in a political protest.
Asked about the ruling, Courtney Lawton said Friday: “I was denied justice and I still believe that my First Amendment right to freedom of expression was violated.”
She does not intend to appeal.
In court, her attorney, Vince Powers, argued he had alleged “copious and detailed facts” supporting her federal constitutional claims.
But in a 46-page decision this week, U.S. District Judge Brian Buescher said sovereign immunity barred all the claims against the Board of Regents, as well as UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green and then-NU President Hank Bounds, and said that Lawton hadn’t alleged Bounds’ personal involvement in any alleged federal constitutional violations.
“She has, at most, alleged facts consistent with the remaining individual defendant’s (Green’s) liability but well short of the line between possibility and plausibility,” the judge wrote.
On Aug. 25, 2017, Lawton was just 11 days into her appointment as a part-time English lecturer when she was filmed protesting Turning Point USA, a student organization with ties to then-President Donald Trump, at the Nebraska Union, a designated “free speech zone” on campus.
The video went viral and led to backlash from conservatives, who pointed to it as evidence the university was a hostile place for conservative students. In a tweet, Bounds called Lawton’s behavior “unprofessional.”
Perhaps in the future, she’ll stick to teaching and not focus on harassing student groups.DONATE
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