A former tenured LSU education professor fired last year for, among other things, using vulgar language in her classroom said Thursday she is seeking monetary damages and her old job back via a federal civil rights lawsuit against the school.
“I will go to the grave proud of the job I did at LSU. I don’t regret anything that I did,” Teresa Buchanan, who was a 20-year veteran of LSU at the time of her June terminaton, said during a news conference at a downtown Baton Rouge hotel.
The suit the 50-year-old Buchanan filed in Baton Rouge federal court late Wednesday against LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander and other top administrators contends her free speech and due process rights were violated.
Bob Corn-Revere, one of Buchanan’s attorneys, said at the news conference that LSU’s firing of Buchanan was “an overreaction in the extreme.”
LSU said in a statement released Thursday through spokesman Ernie Ballard that the university is confident the action it took against Buchanan was appropriate.
“We take our responsibility to protect students from abusive behavior very seriously, and we will vigorously defend our students’ rights to a harassment-free educational environment,” the statement added.
Buchanan was fired despite a recommendation by a committee of five faculty members that she keep her job.
The American Association of University Professors also came to her defense in July, criticizing the firing and pledging money to aid her legal defense.
Buchanan specialized in early childhood education and trained elementary school teachers during her two decades at LSU.
A faculty review committee previously said the instances of vulgarity on Buchanan’s part included saying “F... no” repeatedly around students, using a slang term for vagina that implies cowardice, and joking that sex gets worse the longer a relationship lasts.
LSU administrators alleged Buchanan created a “hostile learning environment” that amounted to sexual harassment. In addition to using curse words and making sexually themed jokes, the school has said Buchanan was fired for “documented evidence of a history of inappropriate behavior that included verbal abuse, intimidation and harassment of our students.”
Buchanan’s suit, sponsored by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and assigned to U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick, contends her “occasional use of profanity” was part of her teaching approach “and was not directed at — nor did it disparage — any student.”
The suit alleges LSU’s sexual harassment policy “unlawfully equates all speech of a ‘sexual nature’ with sexual harassment.”
The suit says Buchanan was notified by an LSU official in December 2013 that she would not be teaching in the 2014 spring semester due to student complaints about “inappropriate comments” she allegedly made in the classroom, and because a parish school superintendent where LSU placed student teachers complained Buchanan had made “negative and inappropriate comments” about parish teachers and criticized the superintendent at a recent meeting.
After her firing, Buchanan told HuffPost Live that she did her job “well” and never harassed any student.
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit educational foundation based in Philadelphia, is sponsoring Buchanan's lawsuit.
Warning: Video contains some profanity.