Court denies Le Moyne student's petition for reinstatement

McConnell to appeal ruling

WASHINGTON, D.C.: Le Moyne College student Scott McConnell said he would appeal a decision by New York State Supreme Court Judge Edward D. Carni denying his reinstatement to Le Moyne College.

McConnell was summarily expelled last January over a paper he wrote for a course in classroom management. Based on his experience as a substitute teacher, McConnell wrote that classroom management depends “upon strong discipline and hard work.”

Without warning, Le Moyne education Dean Dr. Cathy Leogrande sent a note to McConnell on January 13, 2005, dismissing him from the program. Leogrande wrote that she had “grave concerns” about a “mismatch” between McConnell’s “personal beliefs” and “the Le Moyne College program goals.”

In his September 23 letter denying McConnell’s petition for readmission, Judge Carni ruled that McConnell’s expulsion was “uniquely within the professional judgment of those involved…in the academic oversight of this institution.” He went on to note that New York State courts are reluctant to “review day-to-day implementation of … educational policies.”

Terry Pell, President of CIR, commented, “We are disappointed in Judge Carni’s ruling and will appeal. Le Moyne officials intentionally and recklessly interfered with McConnell’s freedom of expression in violation of its own published procedures and New York State law.”

Pell added that officials failed to follow any of the school’s published procedures for expulsion, including advance written notice, a hearing, and the right to an appeal.

In court filings McConnell noted that Le Moyne nowhere says that a student can be expelled for expressing his personal views. Like almost all American schools, Le Moyne protects the right of students and faculty to express their views, including views inconsistent with orthodox or mainstream thinking. Le Moyne’s student handbook even states that students can be suspended or expelled for the “[I]ntentional or reckless interference with the freedom of expression of others.”

School officials took exception to parts of McConnell’s paper that mentioned that “corporal punishment” might play a role in classroom management and that “multiculturalism” had no legitimate role in the classroom. McConnell’s teacher gave him an “A-minus” for the paper. He then passed the paper on to the Chair of the Graduate Education program, Dr. Cathy Leogrande, who expelled McConnell.

This fall, McConnell enrolled at Buffalo State College in order to continue his studies. McConnell said today, “Freedom of expression for all points of view, even views that might seem unorthodox at first glance, in important. It is at the heart of American education. I look forward to appealing this decision.”

McConnell is represented by the Center for Individual Rights; Neil A. Koslowe and Dan O’Sullivan of the international law firm of Shearman & Sterling LLP; and Raymond J. Dague of the Syracuse law firm of Raymond J. Dague, PLLC. McConnell’s legal team agreed to represent him pro bono because of the public importance of the case.