Another reminder that you will be judged by what you write.
A student dismissed from the University of Louisville’s nursing school because of her Internet postings has sued the university, alleging that it violated her First Amendment rights.
The nursing school expelled Nina Yoder on March 2, saying her MySpace postings “regarding patient activities and identification as a University of Louisville School of Nursing student violates the nursing honor code which you pledged to uphold,” according to a copy of her dismissal letter, which was attached to the suit.
In her blog postings, copies of which she attached to her own complaint, Yoder makes caustic comments about Christians and blacks. I attempted to go to the website to make my own determination about the appropriateness of her comments, but she appears to have taken down her MySpace page.
According to an article posted at courier-journal.com, the nursing school is upset because some of Yoder’s postings are about specific patients (although they are not mentioned by name). In one of her postings, she wrote about a birth she witnessed: “Out came a wrinkly bluish creature, all Picasso-like and weird, ugly as hell … screeching and waving its tentacles in the air.” I’m not sure a patient would want the miracle of her child’s birth described in that way by someone who should, like any medical professional, respect her privacy, but I can also see that as a failed attempt to humorously describe what she had seen.
But there was far more. The school officials were probably equally unimpressed when Yoder wrote about how the nursing school is in downtown Louisville, adjoining an area “inhabited by humanoids who have an IQ of 10 and whose needs and actions are basically instinctive. As in, all they do is ––––, eat, –––– and kill each other.” She did, however, graciously concede, “OK, maybe I am generalizing yet again.”
As discussed in my prior blog posting, Yoder and her supporters are using the “there’s so much trash on the Internet you can’t hold my trash against me” defense. As Yoder wrote in her letter requesting reinstatement to the nursing program, “If profanity was grounds for dismissal for the School of Nursing, the nursing school would go bankrupt.”
The court has not yet set a hearing date on Yoder’s request that the nursing school be ordered to reinstate her. We’ll know then if the trash defense worked.
[UPDATE] Thanks to Web Savy Med Student for providing me with an update on this case. I was unable to find the court’s ruling, but according to Web Savy and other sources, Yoder took the case to court and was reinstated to the nursing school. The court dodged any free speech issues, and instead decided the matter strictly on the honor code. Although her comments were “objectively distasteful”, according to the court those comments did not deal with her profession and did not violate any confidentiality since the patient could not be identified.