ADF: Student was punished for her views after classmates complained

A public university that barred a student from discussing and debating controversial topics with her fellow classmates is suing over the punishment, arguing she was singled out for her views and her First Amendment rights were violated.

Alliance Defending Freedom has filed suit in federal court on behalf of Maggie DeJong, a graduate student at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. The law firm says she was punished with three “no-contact” orders in February after students complained about the views she expressed in class and on social media.

“In short,” says ADF attorney Gregg Walters, “she’s suing the university because universities cannot discipline students for their political and religious viewpoints, and that’s what happened with Maggie DeJong.”

The school, which is part of the Southern Illinois University system, has approximately 12,800 students on its campus. DeJong was enrolled in the school’s art therapy counseling program, where ADF alleges her conservative-leaning political and religious views were unwelcomed and where three students eventually complained to the school. Urged by the offended students to take action, the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity issued three no-contact orders – apparently on behalf of each student – on February 10.

By February 23, however, ADF attorneys were pushing back. The university received a letter from ADF claiming the school had failed to cite a university policy DeJong had violated. Not only had the university failed to follow its own policy, which promises a grievance process, the ADF letter states, barring DeJong from “indirect contact” with the complaining students meant the graduate student was being barred from classroom discussions in which the other students were present. That disrupted her schooling and violated her rights, ADF insisted.