Male Speaker: If it wasn’t for FIRE, I wouldn’t have a career. I would be, you know, delivering pizzas instead of savings lives. I currently work as an EMT in Jackson, Mississippi, working towards becoming a paramedic — a father of two, husband. I was persecuted by my college for saying the word "fuck" in conversation with another student after class.
I was, ironically enough, in an Oral Communications class. We were doing a speech, and the teacher had a couple of issues with my speech, and graded me with a 74. When I saw the grade, I was disappointed and, after class, I had — you know in conversation had — turned to a fellow student and said that, "This grade is gonna fuck up my whole GPA."
Immediately, the teacher who was standing about four feet away just started berating me, saying things like, "You can’t use that sorta language in my presence. That’s not allowed in this school." And, at one point, even threatened to send me to detention, which I kinda, you know, countered with, "You know, I’m 30 years old. This is college. There is no detention."
The professor had decided that she no longer wanted me in the classroom and had written a letter to the dean stating that she felt that I was a disruption to her classroom, an impediment on her ability to teach, and she no longer wanted me in her classroom.
My hearing went pretty much as I expected it. When they found me guilty, they found me guilty of flagrant disrespect for any person on campus property. I was forcefully withdrawn from the class, which put me below my required credit hours in order to keep my Federal Pell Grant, which was the only means I had of paying for school. If I had lost my Pell Grant, it would have destroyed my career.
I basically did a Google search for First Amendment rights in college and FIRE was about the first thing that popped up. FIRE first put out a press release, which exploded over the nation. I was getting phone calls from all over the country wanting to do interviews. FIRE found me a civil rights attorney in my area that was willing to defend me pro bono. FIRE — I mean — just handled it from the get-go, took everything off my shoulders, made me really feel like part of the process, though, in doing it.
The outcome of my case? We won. The school was convinced to drop the case entirely. I mainly wanna really thank FIRE and put it out there as to how great of an organization this is who’s willing to get out there and fight for the rights of students. Because of FIRE, I was able to stay in college, and keep my Pell Grant, and continue my advanced training as a paramedic.
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Duration: 4 minutes