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Court rules for U of MN in cadaver case

ST. PAUL, Minn., June 21 (UPI) -- The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled a university did not violate a mortuary student's free speech by punishing her for Facebook posts about a school cadaver.

The case stemmed from Facebook post made by University of Minnesota student Amanda Tatro in November and December 2009, the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press reported.

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Tatro wrote, "I still want to stab a certain someone in the throat with a trocar though," and "Give me room, lots of aggression to be taken out with a trocar," among other comments about a cadaver she was working on in an anatomy class she called "Bernie."

The university found out about the comments and filed a complaint, alleging that Tatro engaged in "threatening, harassing or assaultive conduct."

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The university also ruled Tatro violated anatomy laboratory course rules, which included using respectful language when talking about cadavers and refraining from "blogging" about the anatomy lab or cadaver dissection.

Tatro was then given an F in the class and was required to take a clinical ethics course, although some faculty members wanted her expelled from the mortuary program.

The student appealed the school's decision to the Minnesota Court of Appeals and losing there, asked the state Supreme Court to hear the case.

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On Wednesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled the university's punishment of Tatro was justified by "narrowly tailored" rules directly related to "established professional conduct standards."

University of Minnesota General Counsel Mark Rotenberg said he was "very pleased" by the court's decision.

"The university is not interested in restricting free speech in general," Rotenberg said. "This is a case about enforcing professional standards and norms."

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