US: First Amendment in the classroom

At a time when faculty groups are increasingly worried that a Supreme Court ruling is being used to limit the free speech rights of public college professors, a federal judge has declined a college's request to do just that, writes Scott Jaschik for Inside Higher Ed.

The judge's ruling keeps alive First Amendment claims in a lawsuit by June Sheldon, who in 2007 lost an adjunct science teaching job (and the offer of courses to teach the following semester) at San Jose City College. Sheldon lost her job following a student complaint about comments she is alleged to have made during a class discussion of the 'nature vs nurture' debate with regard to why some people are gay. Some students complained that her comments suggested that she did not believe anyone could be born a lesbian, and that the way she endorsed the 'nurture' side of the debate was offensive.

Sheldon sued the college in federal court, charging that her First Amendment and other rights were violated. Judge Ronald M Whyte, while rejecting parts of the suit, turned down a request by the San Jose/Evergreen Community College District to dismiss the First Amendment claims.
Full report on the Inside Higher Ed site