The war of words between LSU and a former tenured education professor fired by the university in 2015 is heating up in Baton Rouge federal court as a judge considers a civil rights lawsuit filed against the school.
Teresa Buchanan claims she was fired for using vulgar language, saying her free speech and due process rights were trampled by LSU Chancellor F. King Alexander and other top administrators, and she wants monetary damages and her old job back. She worked for LSU for nearly two decades.
A former tenured LSU education professor fired last year for, among other things, using vulg…
"This is a case of political correctness run amok," Buchanan's attorneys argue in a recent court filing. "The defendants at LSU fired Dr. Teresa Buchanan ... for 'sexual harassment' based on speech having nothing to do with either 'sex' or 'harassment.'"
LSU contends its termination of Buchanan was appropriate and necessary to protect students from her verbally abusive behavior.
"This case is not about salty language; students and others observed aggressive and bullying behavior by (Buchanan) in the classroom," attorneys for Alexander, Damon Andrew, A.G. Monaco and Gaston Reinoso argue. "(Buchanan) cannot hide behind the shield of academic freedom while creating a hostile learning environment for the students she was hired to teach."
Andrew is dean of LSU's College of Human Sciences and Education. Monaco is associate vice chancellor of the Office of Human Resource Management, and Reinoso is director of the Human Resource Management office.
Robert Corn-Revere, one of Buchanan's attorneys, declined Thursday to elaborate on the court documents filed on her behalf and instead said he would let those filings "do the talking for us for now." The attorneys for Alexander and his colleagues did not respond to a request for comment.
Buchanan, who specialized in early childhood education and trained elementary school teachers, alleges in her January 2016 lawsuit that her "occasional use of profanity" was part of her teaching approach and "was not directed at — nor did it disparage — any student."
LSU has said Buchanan was fired in June 2015 for "documented evidence of a history of inappropriate behavior that included verbal abuse, intimidation and harassment of our students."
Attorneys for LSU Chancellor F. King Alexander and other university administrators are askin…
A five-member faculty had recommended that Buchanan not lose her job, but the LSU Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to fire her.
The American Association of University Professors came to Buchanan's aid shortly after her termination, criticizing her firing and pledging money to assist her legal defense.
In addition, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a group that advocates for free speech on college campuses, put LSU on its list of worst offenders early last year. The university was featured on the list largely due to Buchanan's termination.
A group that advocates for free speech on college campuses has named LSU to its list of wors…
Buchanan's controversial comments included saying "f*** no" repeatedly in the presence of students, using a slang term for vagina that implies cowardice, and telling a joke that the quality of sex gets worse the longer a relationship lasts.
Buchanan has said she's proud of the job she did at LSU and doesn't regret anything she did.
In recent court filings, Special Assistant Attorneys General Sheri Morris and Carlton "Trey" Jones III, the lawyers representing Alexander and his colleagues, say Buchanan's conduct clearly violated LSU's sexual harassment policies, which mirror a blueprint for campus anti-harassment policies promulgated by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice.
But Buchanan's attorneys claim LSU's sexual harassment policies are "defective" and unconstitutional, and that her firing also was unconstitutional.
"It's absurd for (Buchanan) to claim that defendants' recommendations to enforce policies consistent with federal guidelines are unreasonable," Morris and Jones argue.
Buchanan's attorneys, however, insist that the speech for which she was fired "falls squarely within the First Amendment's protections.
"The First Amendment ... does not permit university officials to equate offendedness with harassment," they argue.
But LSU's attorneys disagree that Buchanan's "embarrassing, humiliating and intimidating speech" toward a captive audience of classroom students was a valid part of her teaching approach.
U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick, who is presiding over the case, has not ruled or scheduled a hearing on LSU's and Buchanan's dueling motions for summary judgment, which ask the judge to rule in their respective favors.