Keefe v. Adams, No. 14-2988 (8th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff was removed from the Associate Degree Nursing Program for behavior unbecoming of the profession and transgression of professional boundaries after CLC received student complaints about plaintiff's posts on his Facebook page. Plaintiff filed suit alleging violations of his First Amendment rights and due process. After some defendants were dismissed, the district court granted summary judgment to the remaining defendants. The court concluded that, given the strong state interest in regulating health professions, teaching and enforcing viewpoint-neutral professional codes of ethics are a legitimate part of a professional school’s curriculum that do not, at least on their face, run afoul of the First Amendment; plaintiff made no allegation, and presented no evidence, that defendants’ reliance on the Nurses Association Code of Ethics was a pretext for viewpoint, or any other kind of discrimination; college administrators and educators in a professional school have discretion to require compliance with recognized standards of the profession, both on and off campus, so long as their actions are reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns; plaintiff's contention, that his offensive Facebook posts were unrelated to any course assignment or requirements, is factually flawed where the posts were directed at classmates, involved their conduct in the Nursing Program, and included a physical threat related to their medical studies; plaintiff's statements had a direct impact on the students' educational experience and had the potential to impact patient care; and the First Amendment did not bar educator Frisch from making the determination that plaintiff was unable to meet the professional demands of being a nurse. The court rejected plaintiff's due process and remaining claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment.