Attorneys for LSU Chancellor F. King Alexander and other university administrators are asking a federal judge to dismiss a civil rights lawsuit by a former tenured education professor fired last year for, among other things, using profane language in her classroom.
Teresa Buchanan is seeking monetary damages and her old job back in the January suit filed in Baton Rouge federal court. She claims her free speech and due process rights were violated.
In a recent response filed in U.S. District Court, Carlton Jones III and Sheri Morris — special assistant state attorneys general — argue Alexander and the other LSU officials named as defendants in the suit “did not violate any clearly established statutory or constitutional rights.”
Jones and Morris also contend Alexander and his colleagues “acted reasonably and in good faith under the circumstances.”
LSU has said Buchanan was fired in June for “documented evidence of a history of inappropriate behavior that included verbal abuse, intimidation and harassment of our students.”
LSU administrators alleged Buchanan created a “hostile learning environment” that constituted sexual harassment. They say she used curse words and made sexually themed jokes.
Buchanan, a 20-year veteran of LSU at the time of her termination, has said she is proud of the job she did at LSU and does not regret anything she did. A five-member faculty committee had recommended she not lose her job.
Alexander’s fellow defendants are Damon Andrew, dean of LSU’s College of Human Sciences and Education; A.G. Monaco, associate vice chancellor of the Office of Human Resource Management; and Gaston Reinoso, director of the Human Resource Management office and executive director of equal employment opportunities at the university.
Alexander and Andrew acknowledge in the March 29 court-filed answer to the suit that Buchanan’s speech was cited in their explanations recommending her dismissal for cause to the LSU Board of Supervisors.
Reinoso also states that he cited her speech as the basis for finding Buchanan violated the school’s sexual harassment policies.
Buchanan, who specialized in early childhood education and trained elementary school teachers, says in her suit that her “occasional use of profanity” was part of her teaching approach and “was not directed at — nor did it disparage — any student.”
The American Association of University Professors came to Buchanan’s defense last summer, criticizing her termination and pledging money to assist her defense.
U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick is presiding over the case.