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Lecturer Reassigned for Student Confrontation Loses in Court

June 14, 2022

The University of Nebraska at Lincoln did not violate the rights of lecturer and graduate student Courtney Lawton when it ended her teaching appointment in 2017 following her participation in a confrontational protest against a conservative student group on campus, a judge ruled last week.

Lawton, who argued that her First Amendment rights had been violated, set off a storm of controversy in the Cornhusker State when she clashed with and flipped off an undergraduate student, which led to political pressure on university leadership from state Republicans as a video of the event went viral, leading to claims that UNL was hostile to conservative students.

UNL removed Lawton from the classroom as pressure mounted, leading the American Association of University Professors to censure the university over academic freedom issues. AAUP removed UNL from its censure list in November 2021 following changes to disciplinary proceedings.

A judge, however, did not see things Lawton’s way, The Lincoln-Journal Star reported. According to the newspaper, U.S. District Court Judge Brian Buescher ruled that sovereign immunity barred the claims Lawton filed against the Nebraska Board of Regents and other officials.

Lawton, who was less than two weeks into her lecturer position at the time of the firing, told the paper she was “denied justice” and still believes her First Amendment rights were violated.

Lawton does not plan to appeal the outcome of the case, The Lincoln Journal-Star reported.

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