Students Threatened with Suspension for Praying
Bay Area Tolerance, California, College of Alameda, Religious Expression, Student Rights, Students Threatened with Suspension for Praying
A recent bizarre students’ rights case comes from an obscure Bay Area community college.
The Pacific Justice Institute is suing the College of Alameda to protect two students from disciplinary action from the college for praying.
The case was prompted by an incident just before Christmas in 2007 in which the students went to deliver a Christmas gift to a professor.
“Kandy found the instructor alone in her shared office,” according to Pacific Justice. “When the instructor indicated she was ill, Kandy offered to pray for her. The instructor bowed her head, and Kandy began to pray â€“ until she was interrupted by another faculty member, Derek Piazza, who walked in and said, ‘You can’t be doing that in here!’ Kandy quickly left and rejoined her friend and fellow student, Ojoma Omaga. Piazza followed Kandy outside and repeated his rebuke.”
While the students reported they were surprised by the teacher’s aggressive behavior, they were stunned when, days later, they both got letters notifying them of the college’s retroactive “intent to suspend” plan.
The letters, however, provided no facts on which to make such a threat, listing only vague references to “disruptive or insulting behavior” and “willful disobedience.”
School officials informed them during administrative hearings that Kyriacou was being disciplined for praying for the sick teacher. Omaga was not part of the prayer, and her offense apparently was that she was with Kyriacou a short time later.
The lawsuit was filed when the college refused to rescind the letters, leaving the students in peril of suspension or expulsion for any other offense, such as praying on campus. The decision from U.S. District Judge Susan Illston turned back college attempts to deny the students a hearing on their complaint.
“To this day, the College of Alameda has never provided a real explanation for its threats to expel these students,” said Steven N.H. Wood of the Walnut Creek firm of Bergquist, Wood and Anderson, which is working with Pacific Justice on the case.