San Jose professor fired for answering student’s genetics question

ADF attorneys file suit against San Jose/Evergreen Community College District
Thursday, July 17, 2008

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom and Pacific Justice Institute filed a lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of a former San Jose City College biology professor fired for answering a student’s in-class question about heredity and homosexual behavior.

“Teachers shouldn’t be punished for doing their job as educators.  They know that students can’t be expected to make good, well-informed decisions if they’re only hearing part of the story,” said ADF Litigation Staff Counsel David Hacker.  “College officials have stripped a professor of the right to discuss competing theories and ideas in the classroom, something which represents the foundation of higher education.”

On June 21, 2007, June Sheldon, an experienced adjunct professor teaching a human heredity course, answered a student’s question about how heredity affects homosexual behavior by citing the class textbook and a well-known German scientist.  She noted that the scientist found a correlation between maternal stress and homosexual behavior in males but that the scientist’s views are only one set of theories in the nature-versus-nurture debate mentioned by the textbook.  Sheldon explained that the class would learn in a later chapter of the textbook that homosexual behavior may be influenced by both genes and the environment.

The school launched an investigation after a different student in the class lodged an informal complaint that deemed Sheldon’s comments “offensive and unscientific.”  Sheldon was later recommended for removal from the adjunct seniority rehire preference list and terminated by the district’s board of trustees on Feb. 13, 2008.

“Firing a teacher for responding to a student’s question with the truth is ridiculous,” said Hacker. “The textbook itself points out that the causes of homosexual behavior are a subject of debate in the scientific community.  This teacher did nothing more than explain this fact.  She is a dedicated and highly qualified professional who has been horribly wronged.”

A copy of the complaint filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division, in Sheldon v. Dhillon is available here.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith.  Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family. 

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