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An Alabama college is challenged after punishing history instructor for Facebook posts

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Wallace State Community College in Alabama placed a history instructor Leigh Ann Courington on administrative leave pending an investigation into Facebook posts that were deemed offensive.

On September 26, Courington criticized an upcoming pride event, writing:

“The devil is attacking our beautiful town of Cullman now apparently . . . and the police chief is in on it? I heard he was a crazy-ass liberal but this??? We need a rally by the you-know-what to put an end to this foolishness. Of course, it may be as well-attended as the Juneteenth event the white liberal weirdos tried to do a few years ago in Hanceville.”

On the same day, she wrote another post that was reported:

“YES!!! WHY are ‘Nazis’/’Hitler’ always the ‘go to’ insult ??? No mention of Communists who killed MILLIONS OF CHRISTIANS. It’s because ‘they’ want to demonize nationalism, and pride in being white, and standing up against sexual deviancy. Say what you will about the Nazis but at least they got some things right!”

The posts were re-posted on social media and sparked outrage. On September 28, Wallace State Community College released a statement to denounce the posts and said that Courington had been placed on administrative leave until an investigation had been completed.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) wrote to the college to explain that suspending the instructor was a violation of the First Amendment, which protects controversial speech, including sensitive topics like racism and homophobia.

The college is a public institution and therefore has to protect the First Amendment rights of students and faculty.

As FIRE noted in the letter to the college: “For conduct to meet this standard, it must be so ‘severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive’ that it limits a reasonable person’s access to educational resources.

“Courington’s posts were not severe or pervasive, as they were one-time posts on social media not directed or targeted at any specific individual. Students who were offended by the posts found out about them only after they were screenshotted and re-distributed online. Additionally, because the posts do not deprive or limit individuals’ access to educational resources, Courington’s posts cannot constitute discriminatory harassment.”

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