Johnson County Community College responds to lawsuit – January 2, 2011

Johnson County Community College responds to lawsuit
Story by Julie Haas
Johnson County Community College responds to lawsuit

Johnson County Community College plans to vigorously defend the lawsuit brought by a student against the college. The lawsuit also asserts individual claims against the members of the college’s distinguished faculty and administrators.

“The entire college community is disappointed that the students have decided to abandon the academic appeals process and take their grievances to the court for resolution,” said Terry Calaway, JCCC president. “We regret that the students used such poor judgment to take such a unique educational opportunity that was presented in a private clinical setting and broadcast it on the Web. We teach our students to respect the confidentiality of patient care, which extends beyond the hospital room and includes situations when the nurse is not in the presence of the patient. The actions of the students showed not only poor judgment, but also lack of respect and a complete disregard for the ethical standards of the nursing profession.

“Because this issue will be adjudicated before a federal judge this week, we are not in a position to share all of the details at this time, although the student has chosen to share some. The student characterizes her perception of the facts in her pleadings, but the full facts will be disclosed and the action of the students will come out in court. It is our expectation that the reputations of these fine teaching professionals will be vindicated.

“We will not tolerate such insensitivity on the part of our nursing students. We also must protect the reputations of our business partners in health care. We provide students with real-life patient care opportunities, and we take our responsibilities very seriously. Please know their actions do not reflect the standards of our nursing program, which is renowned for the quality of its instruction and its graduates. Thankfully, the situation was brought to our attention by other students in the nursing program. We are grateful they recognized the inappropriateness of the other students’ actions and sought advice from their faculty, who took immediate action to ensure the posting was removed.

“We will do whatever we need to do to reassure the community that this behavior is not what we teach at JCCC. Because we cannot tolerate such unprofessional behavior in our students, we took what we believed to be appropriate action. The behaviors of the students were insensitive and disrespectful toward the mother and the human tissue involved. The fact that this story has so quickly gone viral is evidence itself of how damaging social media can be if not used appropriately.

“The students who took the photos were not expelled from the college, as has been reported, but were temporarily dismissed from the nursing program. They are permitted to re-apply to continue their nursing studies in August 2011 and to graduate from the program in May 2012. In the meantime, they have been asked to participate in a project on medical ethics, which could turn this unfortunate incident into a teaching moment for the students. However, the student who filed the lawsuit is getting married out-of-state in August and therefore wants to complete her studies this spring. She is suing the college for immediate reinstatement so she can graduate in May 2011 according to her own schedule.”

Mark A. Ferguson, legal counsel to the college, provided these additional comments:

“The clinical instructor denies having any knowledge that the nursing students intended to post any pictures on their Facebook pages. Allowing them to take a picture is far different than providing consent to publish these pictures on the web. Once the instructor became aware that the students had posted the pictures, she acted promptly to assure that they were immediately removed.

“Shortly after the incident, the student admitted that she made a mistake, that it was a lapse in judgment and should not have allowed herself to be photographed in the first place. She praised her instructor, claiming that she was ‘one of the best’ that she and other fellow classmates have had the pleasure of being assigned.

“While the student’s apology letter acknowledged that she ‘should have never posted the photograph,’ she now takes a different approach in court and alleges that her instructor and other college personnel maliciously violated her due process rights. The bottom line is that the student brought all this on herself and should now accept the consequences of her own actions.”