Maggie DeJong is suing Southern Illinois University over ‘no-contact’ orders after Christian, Conservatives
A graduate of Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville sued the school on Tuesday for civil rights violations after she was issued three “bans on socialising” involving peers who disagreed with her conservative and Christian beliefs.
Maggie DeJong “suffered from insomnia, anxiety, chest pains, feelings of sadness, loss of appetite, weight loss, poor concentration, damage to her reputation and future loss of job and salary” as a result of the orders affecting the art therapy consulting major, her attorneys said .
Lawyers from Alliance Defending Freedom, a public-interest law firm representing Ms. DeJong, say the student’s views were “shaped by her Christian faith and political affiliations” and were reported to school officials by at least three students.
The complaints led to the “no contact” orders being copied to campus police.
The school gave Ms. DeJong, 26, no opportunity to defend herself and found no policy or rule violation, ADF attorneys said.
Ms. DeJong, 26, graduated this month.
The lawsuit alleges Megan A. Robb, the graduate director of the school’s art therapy counseling program, emailed “more than 30 students” in the program and identified Ms. DeJong as a target of “misconduct” and “suppressive acts” was charged.
SIUE rules require officers to “take all reasonable steps to ensure confidentiality” during such investigations, the filing notes said.
“University officials then sat on their hands as the defendant Robb, her student supporters and even alumni smeared Ms DeJong’s reputation simply because she holds views on a range of issues that differ from those found in the echo chamber the SIUE is Art Therapy Program,” the lawsuit alleges.
The contact bans issued in February ordered her to avoid “all contact” or even “indirect communication,” the complaint said.
The orders came even as the school admitted that the paperwork “does not indicate responsibility for any breach of university policy; Rather, it aims to prevent interactions that could be perceived by either party as undesirable, retaliatory, intimidating, or harassing.”
According to her attorneys, Ms. DeJong has shared her views on social media, direct messages to other students and in class on topics including “religion, politics, critical race theory, COVID-19 regulations and censorship.”
These views apparently differed from those of their peers.
An outside observer of the case told the Washington Times the school is not on solid ground in this case.
“This is a public entity bound by the First Amendment, and there are serious allegations of unconstitutionality here, and it will be very interesting to see how and if the university can respond,” said Will Creeley, the Foundation’s legal director for Individual Rights in Education (FEUER).
The school, he added, “faces a very clear and open set of allegations and the documentation appears to be extensive.”
Megan Wieser, spokeswoman for Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
ADF attorney Greg Walters accused the school of ideological censorship.
“Rather than accepting and embracing differing ideological perspectives, SIUE officials are determined to force their graduate students to think and speak – or remain silent – exactly the same thing, and they will punish anyone who steps out of line,” Mr Walters said in a statement.
“It’s a sad day for civil dialogue and freedom of expression when universities can issue gag orders like the one against Maggie just to express their beliefs — beliefs held by millions of Americans,” he said.
Although the school later revoked the orders, the lawsuit alleges the school acted “with malice or with a reckless and callous indifference” to its First Amendment rights to free speech and due process rights under the 14th Amendment .
The lawsuit seeks unspecified “compensatory, nominal and punitive damages” for Ms. DeJong and attorneys’ fees.
The ADF file also asks the court to determine that Ms. DeJong’s constitutional rights have been violated and that the policies under which she was investigated are unconstitutional.