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Sheldon v. Dhillon

June 2007
San Jose Community College (Public college or university)
San Jose, California, United States

Identity of Speakers

  • June Sheldon
    Faculty/Staff
    Other

    June Sheldon was a professor at San Jose Community College.

Additional Information

  • Incident Nature:
    Classroom
  • Incident Responses:
    University administration not protective of speech
  • Incident Status:
    Settled
  • No protest Occured
  • Did not involve Speech Codes

Summary

June Sheldon was a professor at San Jose Community College. In 2007, Sheldon taught a course entitled “Human Heredity.” On June 21, 2007, a student asked Sheldon how heredity affects homosexuality in males and females. The content of Sheldon’s response is contested. Sheldon claimed that she responded by “noting the complexity of the issue, providing a genetic example mentioned in the textbook, and referring the student to the perspective of a German scientist named Dr. Dörner who had reportedly found correlations between maternal stress and male sexual orientation at birth.” However, a student formally complained that Sheldon made “offensive and unscientific statements” including that “there aren’t any real lesbians” and “there are hardly any gay men in the Middle East because the women are treated very nicely.

In early August Leandra Martin, the Dean of the Division of Math and Science, emailed Sheldon to discuss the complaint. In September, Sheldon met with Martin and several other members of the faculty and agreed to meet again to discuss “mainstream scientific thought” on the issue of homosexuality in genetics. On October 19, 2007, Martin extended Sheldon an offer of employment for the Spring 2007 semester. However, on December 18, 2007 Anita Morris, the Vice Chancellor of Human Resources, sent Sheldon a letter rescinding the offer as a result of her investigation of the complaint.

On July 16, 2008, Sheldon filed a § 1983 action against various College officials and the Board of Trustees, alleging that her termination violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. On November 25, 2008, the District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division, granted in part and denied in part the Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss the claim. The court held that Sheldon had adequately alleged facts that supported that the college had violated her First Amendment rights but had failed to adequately allege facts that supported her Fourteenth Amendment claims. The case was settled in 2010 after San Jose Community College agreed to pay Sheldon $100,000 in lost wages.