Current, ex-GCCC employees sue Swender, college

The Garden City Telegram

Lawyers representing six current and former Garden City Community College employees who have taken issue with the management of the college filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging that GCCC and its former president, Herbert Swender, had violated the plaintiffs constitutional rights.

Attorneys Jean Lamfers and Bob Lewis filed the complaint in U.S. District Court in Topeka on behalf of GCCC instructors Phil Hoke, Holly Chandler, Sheena Hernandez and Jean Ferguson, GC3 Media coordinator Daniel Reyes and former college staff member Micah Koksal. The college and Swender are named as defendants.

According to the lawsuit, at the in-service’s morning session, Swender told the roughly 250 faculty and staff members, plus other attendees, that they would be hearing ”‘disturbing news,’” from the Higher Learning Commission, the entity responsible for the college’s accreditation, that he disagreed with the HLC assessment, and that the HLC team that had visited the college was biased and incompetent. In June 2017, the HLC placed the college’s accreditation on probation.

The lawsuit claims the incident violated employees’ and the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of expression by chastising and threatening to punish employees for alerting the media to information that was “of keen public interest,” telling staff not to speak to the media without clearance, telling employees to not leave and searching colleagues’ personal phones.

The lawsuit also alleges the incident violated Fourth Amendment protection from unlawful search and seizure by telling employees to search each others’ phones while being “held under duress” for fear of retaliation.

In addition to the allegations stemming from the in-service meeting, the lawsuit also alleges that Swender, as an individual, violated the First Amendment’s establishment clause in regards to an implied separation of church and state.

The lawsuit points to several alleged instances of “college-sanctioned” Protestant Christian prayer and invocations at mandatory employee in-services, Swender referring to a pastor who gave some of those prayers as the “college’s pastor” and a Texas pastor “providing Protestant witness to his life” as a speaker at an in-service in January 2018.

The lawsuit states these actions show that Swender was “trying to establish Protestant Christianity as the college’s religion.”

Find more information online here.

Filed Under Campus Sexual Assault Cases News Title IX 

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