'I was afraid to even defend myself': Student sues university that restricted her speech on campus
Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit against Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville after three no-contact orders allegedly chilled a student's First Amendment rights.
"I felt like I was in a very vulnerable place where I was afraid to even defend myself,' the student told Campus Reform.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of SIUE student Maggie DeJong, who received the orders after allegedly offending a student with Christian rhetoric.
The "no-contact orders" barred her from any on- or off-campus activity where she may come in contact with the accuser.
"They discriminated against her speech," DeJong's lawyer Greg Walters told Campus Reform."They threatened her future speech."
DeJong told Campus Reform that she was shocked to receive the orders, but noted that she was recognizing a disconnect from the values of the school's art therapy program- in which DeJong is a graduate student.
“I think as my views started to be in contrast to what the program’s views were, it started to create a little bit more difference of opinion between us, but I was alarmed with the no-contact orders from them," she said.
As Campus Reform reported this spring, the controversy stemmed from accusations of DeJong using "microaggressions" in conversations with other students.
According to ADF's press release, Art Therapy program director Megan Robb emailed over 30 students about the investigation into DeJong's "misconduct" and "oppressive acts."
Some of her texts exchanges were allegedly featured in an art project displayed at the university titled "Crushing Weight of Microaggressions."
DeJong told Campus Reform she was "fearful" after the email was sent.
"I felt like I was in a very vulnerable place where I was afraid to even defend myself," she said.
ADF threatened legal action in February after DeJong received the no-contact orders early spring semester.
The no-contact orders were rescinded in March, however, ADF claims that the damage was already done. The university, allegedly, violated DeJong's rights.
“The university issued the no-contact orders without giving DeJong the chance to defend herself, without telling her of the allegations against her, and without identifying any policy or rule that DeJong violated,” ADF stated in a press release.
While the lawsuit has been served, Walters stated it could be months "before this thing starts moving forward."
SIUE Director of Media Relations told Campus Reform the university has not yet been served and "has no comment on pending litigation."
DeJong stated that she hopes the lawsuit will empower other students at SIUE.
"There was a small minority of students in my program who gave me silent support and I thought of them.”
Campus Reform reached out to Director Robb and the university's Office of Equal Opportunity, Access, and Title IX Coordination for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.
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