Judge rules U of L student cannot collect damages
By Michelle Eigenheer–
A federal judge has ruled that a former University of Louisville student will not be able to collect damages cited in her lawsuit against U of L.
Nina Yoder, a former nursing student, sued the university in 2009, claiming that her rights to free speech and due process had been violated.
U.S. District Judge Charles R. Simpson III ruled that Yoder waived her rights to free speech when she signed an honor code that included a non-disclosure requirement.
Yoder was expelled from the nursing school after the university learned of a MySpace blog post she had made that described, in detail, a live birth that she had witnessed.
“At last my girl gave one big push, and immediately out came a wrinkly bluish creature, all Picasso-like and weird, ugly as hell, covered in god knows what, screeching and waving its tentacles in the air,” Yoder wrote. “15 minutes later it turned into a cute pink itty bitty little baby girl.”
The university found this to be in violation of the nursing school’s Honor Code and confidentiality agreement that was signed by Yoder. This agreement mandated that Yoder was to only share her observations with her professors, not with the public.
Initially, Yoder won the lawsuit against the university and was able to return to school and graduate. However, on appeal by U of L, the decision was overturned and sent back to district courts. These courts have just ruled against Yoder, saying that the Honor Code and confidentiality agreement that she signed are not unconstitutional; therefore her rights were not violated.
“Certainly, that was information about the mother’s pregnancy and health care, and it was presented in written form on a publicly-accessible internet site, rather than ‘only’ to Yoder’s instructor,” Judge Simpson III wrote in his decision.
According to Yoder’s attorney, Dan Canon, Nina Yoder will be appealing this decision.
“It is definitely a surprise,” Canon said. “As far as I know, no court in the country has ever approved this degree of control by a university over its students’ speech.”
Photo: Nathan Gardner/The Louisville Cardinal