Press release – Audio: Hodge on KMBZ 980 with Darla Jaye to discuss JCCC; Read Byrnes v. JCCC court ruling

Benjamin Hodge
Kansas GOP Delegate, 2009-’10
Kansas Representative, 2007-’08
JCCC Trustee, 2005-’09
Web site:
Phone: (913) 259-4236

Monday, January 24, 2011

US District Judge Eric Melgren: “I don’t know that what
they [the students] did was disruptive. I think the college’s
reaction was disruptive.”

Read the transcript of the ruling of the court

Also: KMBZ 980’s Darla Jaye recently interviewed Benjamin Hodge.
You can listen to the audio on YouTube.


On Friday, I was fortunate to be a guest on KMBZ’s “980 Life with Darla Jaye.”  I put portions of our discussion up on YouTube.  You may click here or on the image at right to listen to the Darla Jaye program from Friday night, January 21.


Earlier this month, a federal judge ruled that Johnson County Community College illegally expelled a nursing student — the ruling impacted four nursing students, who were then re-instated.  Without due process and a fair hearing, JCCC expelled these students.  College leaders later said that the students were not “expelled” but “dismissed,” as if the wording mattered to these students’ well-being and reputations.
I obtained a copy of the 17-page ruling by US District Judge Eric Melgren (right).  You may click here to read the text of the court ruling online, or you may click here to read (or download) a PDF version of the ruling.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a national First Amendment rights group, called this a “free speech victory.”

KMBC-ABC Channel 9’s Mike Mahoney covered the story on the night of the court decision.  Click here or on the image below to watch Mahoney’s report.

Below, is the full article from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education:

Free Speech Victory in Kansas As Judge Reinstates Nursing Student

by Adam Kissel, January 10, 2011

The Kansas City Star reported last week that U.S. District Judge Eric F. Melgren ordered Johnson County Community College (JCCC) in Kansas to reinstate a nursing student who had sued JCCC over her expulsion for posting a photo of herself with an anonymous woman’s placenta on Facebook.
JCCC also had expelled three other students for doing the same. The judge ruled that JCCC got rid of the student without affording her a fair hearing.

That’s not all. JCCC apparently violated both the free speech and due process rights of student Doyle Byrnes and her three classmates. The Star reports these findings by Judge Melgren:

  • Photos are taken to be viewed, and if the students were given permission to photograph the placenta, it became irrelevant what they did with the pictures.
  • There was no violation of any patient’s privacy because there was nothing in the photos to identify whose placenta it was.
  • Byrnes was not allowed a fair hearing on her dismissal.

According to Star journalist Matt Campbell, Judge Melgren added: “I don’t know that what they [the students] did was disruptive. I think the college’s reaction was disruptive.”

JCCC claims that the four students were “dismissed” but not “expelled,” since they had the opportunity to reapply for admission. But that sure looks like expulsion to me.
At any rate, FIRE’s free online Guide to Due Process and Fair Procedure on Campus makes clear that a college cannot simply get rid of a student without at least some form of notice and a hearing. In fact, the law is so clearly established on this point that former Valdosta State University President Ronald Zaccari lost his qualified immunity (which generally protects government officials from personal liability when they act in their official roles) by expelling a student without providing notice or a hearing.

Zaccari still faces having to pay damages. JCCC officials who violated the students’ rights could face damages as well if they were sued in their personal capacities.
Campbell reports that JCCC plans to “reach out” to all four students. That’s a good idea, since more lawsuits from the other students could be coming. I hope JCCC has learned an important lesson about respecting students’ rights.