Yoder v. University of Louisville

From February 2009 to May 2013
University of Louisville (Public college or university)
Louisville, KY, United States

Identity of Speakers

  • Nina Yoder

    Nina Yoder was a student at the University of Louisville’s School of Nursing.

Additional Information

  • Incident Nature:
    Social media
  • Incident Political Orientation:
  • Incident Responses:
    Student sanctioned
  • Incident Status:
  • Did not involve Speech Codes


Nina Yoder was a student at the University of Louisville’s School of Nursing. In January 2009, as part of her studies at the school, Yoder took a childbearing clinical course, which required that she follow a pregnant patient through the birthing process. In conjunction with the course, Yoder signed a confidentiality agreement and a consent form essentially requiring Yoder not to share any medical or personal information with anyone but her instructor. On February 2, 2009, Yoder posted a blog entry on her personal webpage entitled, “How I witnessed the Miracle of Life.” The post revealed a significant amount of information about the pregnancy and birth that Yoder witnessed.

In late February, the school determined that Yoder’s blogpost had violated both the school’s honor code as well as the confidentiality agreement Yoder had signed. Yoder was subsequently dismissed from the school. Her appeal requesting reinstatement was denied.

On March 12, 2009, Yoder filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky claiming that her dismissal from the school of nursing violated her right to free speech and due process under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The complaint named the school and various administrators as defendants, and asked that Yoder be reinstated as a law student, that she be granted full credit for all academic work missed, that her disciplinary and academic record be cleared, and that university employees be enjoined from disclosing information regarding the incident. Yoder also sought compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney fees.

After discovery, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. On August 3, 2009, the district court granted Yoder’s motion for summary judgment. Defendants filed an appeal, and April 8, 2011, the Sixth Circuit vacated the district court’s grant of summary judgment and remanded. On remand, both parties again filed cross-motions for summary judgment. This time, the district court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment. The district court found that Yoder’s claims against the university and the various administrators in their official capacities were barred by sovereign immunity, and that the administrators in their individual capacities were entitled to qualified immunity. Yoder appealed, and on May 15, 2013, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the lower court’s ruling, holding that the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity and that the policies of the school of nursing program were not unconstitutionally vague or overbroad.