A graduate student at the University of Southern Illinois at Edwardsville filed a lawsuit against the school on Tuesday for violating civil rights after she was issued three non-contact orders involving peers who disagreed with her conservative and Christian beliefs.
Maggie DeJong “suffered from insomnia, anxiety, chest pain, sadness, loss of appetite, weight loss, lack of concentration, damage to reputation and future loss of work and wages” because of orders concerning the specialty of counseling in art therapy – said her lawyers.
Lawyers for Alliance Defending Freedom Law Firm, which represents Ms. Dejong’s interests, say the student’s views were “marked by her Christian faith and political stance,” and at least three students reported to school officials.
Complaints led to “non-contact” orders that were copied to campus police.
The school did not give 26-year-old Ms. Dejong the opportunity to defend herself and found no violations of policies or rules, ADF lawyers said.
Ms. Dejong, 26, graduated this month.
The lawsuit alleges that Megan A. Rob, a graduate of the school’s art therapy counseling program, emailed “more than 30 students” to a program in which Ms. Dajong was identified as an investigative target accused of “rights.” and “acts of oppression.”
The EOUS rules require officials to “take all reasonable steps to ensure confidentiality” during such investigations, the filing said.
‘Then university officials sat idly by when defendant Rob, her followers and even alumni dragged Mrs Dajong’s reputation through the dirt simply because she held views on a number of topics that differed from those expressed in the echo chamber, which of’ is SIUE. The art therapy program, ”the lawsuit reads.
The non-contact orders issued in February instructed her to avoid “any contact” or even “indirect communication,” the complaint said.
Orders came even when the school acknowledged that the documents “are not a sign of responsibility for violating university policies; rather, it is designed to prevent interaction that may be perceived by either party as undesirable, revenge, intimidation, or harassment. ”
According to her lawyers, Ms. Dejong shared her views through social media, direct messages to other students and in the classroom on topics including “religion, politics, critical racial theory, COVID-19 rules and censorship”.
These views apparently differed from the views of her peers.
One outside observer of the case told The Washington Times that the school was not in a firm position on the case.
“This is a government institution linked to the First Amendment, and there are serious allegations of unconstitutionality, and it will be very interesting to see how and whether the university can respond,” said Will Creeley, legal director of the Human Rights Foundation for Education (FIRE).
The school, he added, “faces a very clear and open set of charges, and the documentation seems to be sufficient.”
Megan Wieser, a spokeswoman for the University of Southern Illinois at Edwardsville, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
ADF lawyer Greg Walters accused the school of ideological censorship.
“Instead of accepting and accepting different ideological views, SIUE officials are determined to make their graduate students think and speak the same – or keep silent – and they will punish anyone who goes out of line,” Ms. Wieser said in a statement. .
“It’s a sad day for civil dialogue and freedom of speech, when universities can issue plug-in orders like Maggie just for expressing her beliefs – beliefs held by millions of Americans,” she said.
Although the school later overturned these orders, the lawsuit alleges that the school “acted with malice or reckless and callous indifference” to its right to freedom of expression under the First Amendment and its proper procedural rights under Article 14. amendment.
The lawsuit requires unspecified “compensatory, nominal and punitive damages” for Ms. Dejong as well as a lawyer.
The ADF statement also asked the court to recognize that Ms. Dejong’s constitutional rights had been violated and that the policy under which she was investigated was unconstitutional.