Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

High Court Passes Up College's Free Speech Case

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

High Court Passes Up College's Free Speech Case

Article excerpt


Leaders of a Kentucky community college lost a free speech case that asked the Supreme Court if a college instructor had a constitutional right to use racial slurs in class as part of a discussion on hurtful communication.

Complaints about the lesson cost the teacher his job, and the court had been urged to use his dismissal to decide whether the First Amendment applies to all on-the-job speech. Justices declined earlier this month, without comment, to review an appeal from the teacher's superiors.

An appeals court said Kenneth Hardy, who taught communications classes at a two-year college in Louisville, Ky., could sue the college president and dean claiming they retaliated against him forhis comments.

"I think the way this is progressing is holding the two administrators accountable for their actions," says Hardy, who is a visiting communications lecturer at the University of Louisville.

Hardy had asked students in his interpersonal communication class to examine how language is used to hurt classes of people. He sought examples from students and they discussed derogatory terms for Blacks, homosexuals and women.

His superiors' lawyer said Hardy was speaking as a college employee and cannot claim his constitutional rights were violated. Had he made comments away from work, it's clear he had a right to do so. Courts have reached various conclusions in employee speech cases.

"The argument that teachers have no First Amendment rights when teaching, or that the government can censor teacher speech without restriction, is totally unpersuasive," the 6th U. …

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