LSU's sexual harassment policies are unconstitutionally broad and were used in 2015 to fire a tenured education professor who used vulgar language in the classroom, an attorney for the ex-professor told a federal judge Monday.
Teresa Buchanan, who worked for LSU for nearly two decades, sued LSU President F. King Alexander and other university officials in 2016. She is seeking monetary damages and reinstatement to her former job, claiming her civil rights were trampled.
This case is an important example "of how things can go wrong," Robert Corn-Revere, who represents Buchanan, told U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick in arguing that LSU violated Buchanan's First Amendment free speech rights.
The war of words between LSU and a former tenured education professor fired by the universit…
Special Assistant Attorney General Sheri Morris, who represents Alexander and several other university administrators, defended LSU's sexual harassment policies and the firing of Buchanan, saying the policies do recognize academic freedom.
Buchanan has claimed the salty language was part of her teaching approach, but Morris says that sort of language has nothing to do with teaching the next generation of early education teachers.
Buchanan's controversial comments included saying "f*** no" repeatedly in the presence of students, using a slang term for vagina that implies cowardice, and joking that the quality of sex declines the longer a relationship lasts.
"These comments have nothing to do with teaching a pre-K through third-grade teacher," Morris told the judge.
Corn-Revere countered that LSU disregarded whether Buchanan's comments were protected classroom speech. One of LSU's policies prohibits "unwelcome speech of a sexual nature," he said, adding that the policy "falls far below the standard of constitutionality."
LSU stands by Buchanan's termination, saying it was appropriate and necessary to protect students from her verbally abusive behavior.
Attorneys for LSU Chancellor F. King Alexander and other university administrators are askin…
Dick took Monday's arguments on the constitutionality of LSU sexual harassment policies under advisement. The judge cautioned, however, that the university's policies "must leave room for protected speech."
"They do," Morris replied.
After the hearing, Buchanan said she has yet to land another job. She is living in New Orleans.
"It's hard to find work at 55 when you've been accused of sexual harassment," she said outside Dick's courtroom.
Buchanan, who specialized in early childhood education and trained elementary school teachers, contends in her lawsuit that her "occasional use of profanity" was part of her approach to teaching and was not directed at, nor did it disparage, any student.
Morris argued Monday that some of Buchanan's statements were directed at particular students.
A five-member faculty panel recommended that Buchanan not be fired, but the LSU Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to terminate her employment.
A former tenured LSU education professor fired last year for, among other things, using vulg…
The American Association of University Professors criticized her firing and pledged money for her legal defense.
Buchanan has expressed no regrets, only pride in the job she did at LSU.