Madera Community College: Professor Investigated, Suspended for Eight Months, Before Being Cleared for … Handing Out Candy Bars at Open House


Case Overview

FIRE Victory closed

In May 2023, Madera Community College police served tenured history professor David Richardson suspension papers informing him the college was placing him on administrative leave while it investigated him for possibly “creating a hostile work environment based on gender” via candy bars he offered at a campus open house. While tabling at the event, Richardson offered Jeremy’s Chocolate candy bars labeled She/Her on plain chocolate bars and He/Him on bars containing nuts. Another faculty member at the event took offense, confronted Richardson, and reported the matter to the administration, who suspended Richardson and launched an eight-month investigation. On May 15, 2023, FIRE wrote the college urging it to rescind the suspension because the candy bars expressed his views about gender, pronoun, and diversity issues he perceives on campus, speech that falls squarely within the First Amendment’s protection. On Jan. 15, 2024, the college notified Richardson it found him “not responsible” for the incident, that it had lifted his suspension, and that he could return to teaching.