Student expelled from nursing program for fulfilling writing assignment

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education says it is taking up the cause of an Oregon college student who was dismissed from not only her own college but banned from all related nursing programs in the state.

All this over a writing assignment in which she explored the mental deterioration possible if a patient with a chronic illness suddenly would lose a support system.

Anne Marie Tamburro, a program officer for FIRE, explained that Kaylyn Willis was expelled from the Umpqua Community College of Roseburg, Oregon, nursing program because administrators claimed her writing assignment was “dishonest, disrespectful, or disruptive.”

“UCC punished Willis for submitting a story that met all the criteria. They asked her to use her imagination, then wrote off her response as a joke and kicked her out. It takes imagination to write a story about a sensitive topic, but it takes no imagination to trample someone’s rights,” Tamburro said.

It was for a Chronic I class taught by Patrick Harris that Willis wrote her project.

Each week, Harris’ students were told to use “critical imagining” to write from the perspective of a person with a chronic disease.

For one assignment, Willis was told to reflect on the support systems for chronically ill, and how that victim might respond to the loss of that system.

Willis wrote fictionally about a woman suffering from ALS who shoots and kills her husband, her caretaker, as part of a mental deterioration of such a patient.

And she drew from a well publicized case of a man found not guilty for murdering his wife and sister-in-law because of ALS-related mental issues, FIRE reported.

She got a zero for the assignment, even though it met requirements, and when she asked Harris, he accused her of “joking.”

Within hours, she got an email demanding her participation in a meeting in which she was thrown out of the school.

The college refused to change its position during her appeal process, then also demanded she be prohibited from any other Oregon Consortium Nursing Education programs.

“I have had the dream of being a nurse since I was nine years old,” said Willis. “I was less than 18 months from realizing my dream, and I’ve had to move all my nursing program stuff to the garage and distance myself from some very amazing people in the program because it is too difficult to watch them move on knowing I will never be where they are. UCC violated my rights and took away my future.”

FIRE has written to the school explaining that Willis’ project is protected under the First Amendment, and promised not to close the chapter on her situation until she is “reinstated and allowed to complete her program.”

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This article was originally published by the WND News Center.

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