By Matthew T. Hall at U-T San Diego
You may remember Bergen (New Jesey) Community College professor Francis Schmidt, who was placed on unpaid leave for eight days in January for posting a photo on Google+ of his daughter in a “Game of Thrones” T-shirt that said, “I will take what is mine with fire & blood.”
You may also remember that one school administrator dubbed the phrase “threatening” and another said “fire” might refer to “AK-47s.”
Most everyone else (and we mean most everyone else; the story slayed the Internet) thought Schmidt had just shared a cute picture of his daughter doing a back bridge.
Now, the college has admitted its error and notified Schmidt in a letter that it may have violated his civil rights by punishing him as it did. (You could say that the letter amounts to a feast of crows.)
“By sanctioning you as it did, BCC may have unintentionally erred and potentially violated your civil rights, including under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” human resources director Patti Bonomolo wrote to Schmidt in a letter obtained by Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a nonprofit educational foundation that advocates for individual rights on college and university campuses.
The letter continued: “Upon further reflection on this matter and in order to bring this issue to closure, BCC will strike and remove from your employment file any adverse record in connection with this Incident.”
In a statement published on nj.com, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said: “Saying that Bergen Community College’s punishment of Francis Schmidt ‘may have lacked basis’ is like saying that King Joffrey may have been a less than ideal ruler. Nevertheless, we’re glad to see BCC finally acknowledge Professor Schmidt’s First Amendment rights and rescind his punishment.”
To recap, we all still can post cute pictures of our kids on social media.