NOTE: The article excerpted on this page is from an outside publication and is posted on FIRE's website because it references FIRE's work. The viewpoints expressed in this article do not necessarily represent FIRE's positions.
A New York State appeals court on Wednesday ruled that Le Moyne College was wrong to dismiss a student who wrote a paper in support of corporal punishment in elementary school classrooms.
Scott McConnell was dismissed from the graduate education program in January 2005 because of a paper he wrote two months earlier that advocated “corporal punishment,” including spanking, as an effective means to create an ideal learning environment.
McConnell earned an ‘A-‘ on the paper but the program’s director, Dr. Cathy Leogrande, dismissed McConnell on the grounds that she had “grave concerns regarding the mismatch between [his] personal beliefs regarding teaching and learning and the Le Moyne College program goals.”
After the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education unsuccessfully attempted to reverse the school’s decision with public pressure, McConnell sued the college for wrongful dismissal because it did not grant him an opportunity to appeal.
Le Moyne argued that it had the right to dismiss McConnell without giving him a chance to appeal because he had been accepted into the program on the condition that he complete all admission requirements, including a review of his first semester performance. It argued that he had never been fully accepted and therefore could be dismissed without an appeal.
But Judge Edward Carni of the Supreme Court of the State of New York’s Appellate Division ruled that “neither the Catalog nor the conditional acceptance letter states that personal goals are a criterion for admission.”
Carni wrote that McConnell is “entitled to the due process procedures set forth in the College’s rules and regulations before he could properly be dismissed,” and ordered that Le Moyne reinstate McConnell.
FIRE Interim President Greg Lukianoff wrote in a press release that the ruling marked “a great day for all those who believe college should keep their promises to students. Le Moyne College has learned that it cannot promise freedom and fairness but deliver repression and injustice.”
Lukianoff said the college’s president, Charles Beirne, “should be ashamed that his administration ignored its own rules, spent students’ tuition money fighting litigation it invited, and cost one of its students a year of education simply because it did not like what he said in a theoretical paper.”
In a prepared statement, Le Moyne College announced that it would abide by the court’s decision and reinstate McConnell for the Spring semester. The school also announced that it has begun the process of appealing the decision to a higher court. A spokesman declined to provide additional comments “due to the on-going nature of the litigation.”