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Professor Charged With Harassment Sues William & Mary

February 7, 2018
 
 

A former longtime professor of government at the College of William & Mary who resigned after he was charged with harassment is suing the institution, alleging that it prevented him from speaking out about student mental health, the Williamsburg Yorktown Daily reported. The professor, David Dessler, was arrested four times for harassment by computer from 2016-17, and sent his chair, a college attorney and others emails containing threats and “vulgar and obscene language,” according to campus police. He was reportedly on medical leave at the time and barred from contacting campus employees. All but one of the charges were later dropped. Dessler is still not allowed on campus based on the terms of the last -- deferred -- charge.

Dessler’s complaint says that William & Mary “quarantined” him like it would a “violent criminal” during his leave, and that the college failed to provide reasonable accommodation for Dessler’s depression diagnosis under the Americans With Disabilities Act. He also alleges that his First Amendment rights were violated and that he was not granted due process before he was declared an “inactive” employee. He retained his tenure until he resigned but says he was effectively terminated.

William & Mary declined immediate comment on the lawsuit but said Dessler filed a similar complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which found no evidence of discrimination or retaliation. A spokesperson told the Daily that the matter is “a complex one involving both legal and personnel issues. The underlying mental health condition involved has been detailed and documented on several occasions in court. We are confident the university has acted appropriately and compassionately.”

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