[the investigation target]

Art Student Cleared of Classmate’s Accusation of Harassment

This article originally appeared on WND.com

Guest by post by Bob Unruh 

Simply answered question about beliefs

A student at the Art Institute of Chicago has been cleared of allegations of discrimination, launched under Title IX by a fellow student who asked her about her faith, and then was offended by the answer.

But the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression said there’s still a concern over the fact that the inquiry even was launched.

“Although FIRE is pleased SAIC dismissed the complaint, we remain concerned with the fact that an investigation was launched over clearly protected speech, the manner in which it was handled, and the school’s unwillingness to transparently address its misstep,” the free speech organization explained.

“When schools receive Title IX complaints about speech, they should, to avoid chilling protected expression, conduct a threshold analysis to determine whether any of the allegations could even be constitutionally construed as harassment. Here, the brief, one-off interaction between [the investigation target] and the student would never be ‘severe and pervasive’ enough to meet Davis, and therefore should never have triggered an investigation.”

It said, “This process of vetting claims is a critical aspect of protecting students’ expressive rights. Any investigation brings stress, reputational damage, and threat of disciplinary action. Routinely notifying students of potentially unmeritorious claims chills student expression, even when the investigation is ultimately resolved in the student’s favor.”

Particular of concern, the FIRE wrote, was the fact that SAIC administrator Dushko Petrovich summoned student Ann Gould to his office and threatened, “You probably think you have the right to freedom of speech, but you don’t here, because we value diversity.”

The whole situation developed after Gould gave a presentation of her art, and referenced a biblical passage, 1 Timothy 4:2.

“The next day, as Gould moved a cart of her paintings and presentation materials, another student approached and asked Gould if she believed the student was going to hell for having gay sex. Caught off guard, Gould told the student she did not know the student was having gay sex and attempted to change the subject,” the FIRE said.

The school brought a formal investigation under Title IX, and while the school ultimately dismissed the complaint, and “rightfully so,” the FIRE explained, concerns remain because of an investigation over “clearly protected speech.”

The organization said the institution needs to “revise its policies to align with the First Amendment.”

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