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Prof said to retaliate against students

Aug. 9, 2011 at 12:31 PM   |   Comments

CHESTER, Pa., Aug. 9 (UPI) -- Widener University Law School says it suspended an instructor for allegedly retaliating against students who said he made violent, racist and sexist statements.

Lawrence J. Connell, an associate professor, has been suspended for a year without pay, ordered to undergo psychiatric treatment and formally apologize, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

"Filing an informal or formal complaint of discrimination or harassment is protected activity under the law," the university said in a statement. "The university prohibits retaliation against any individual who files a complaint in good faith or who participates in a discrimination and/or harassment inquiry."

Connell's attorney, Thomas Neuberger, said he would not comply with the ruling and called the university's actions against him "draconian."

In June, a faculty panel, the second to review the case, found accusations Connell made racist, sexist and violent statements had not been proved, but that he did retaliate against students who made them.

Connell, who is white, has asserted Law School Dean Linda L. Ammons, who is black, wants him fired because of his conservative political views.

Connell, who has taught at the law school 26 years, has filed a $1.8 million defamation suit against the university and two students who made the allegations for lost wages and benefits he said he would have received in the 12 years he intended to continue working. He's also seeking damages for humiliation, pain and suffering, emotional distress and harm to his reputation.

The ruling said the alleged retaliation included e-mails to other students about the accusations and threats in the media to sue the students

Neuberger said the actions were not retaliation but Connell's attempt to defend himself.

In December, the Inquirer said, Connell was accused of using "hypothetical examples" during criminal procedure classes that included his attempt to shoot Ammons. He was also accused of using racist and sexist statements.

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