Court of Appeals Overturns Price Case at DePauw
- Court of Appeals Overturns Price Case at DePauw
By United Methodist News Service
March 1, 2005
A case involving a United Methodist-related university and a college
instructor who claims she was unjustly removed from her part-time
teaching position is entering another round of legal proceedings.
In January, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in favor of DePauw
University and overturned a jury's verdict in favor of Janis Price, a
DePauw employee who has worked in the education department for more
than 15 years. Price has filed an appeal.
In a trial in October 2003, a jury awarded Price $10,401 in damages.
At that time, the jury ruled DePauw did not properly follow policies
in its faculty handbook when reducing her duties.
Initially, Price sued the university, claiming DePauw had cut her
teaching duties because of her religious views. She maintains she was
reassigned and incurred a $10,000 pay cut because she had distributed
anti-homosexual magazines in her classroom.
DePauw argued that its decision to change Price's duties was the
result of both declining enrollments in the teacher education program
and regular and special reviews of her performance.
"This decision represents total vindication of DePauw," said John T.
Neighbours, the attorney who defended the university. "This ruling
affirms that all of her claims were without merit and that DePauw
acted legally, properly and honorably."
According to a statement from the university, the ruling by the
Indiana Court of Appeals determined that the trial judge should have
awarded summary judgment for DePauw and that there should not even
have been a trial. As a result, the trial judge's denial of summary
judgment is reversed and the damages and costs awarded to Price are
reversed as well.
Price was a part-time instructor at DePauw until July 2001, when her
responsibility for teaching one class was not extended by the
university. She remains an administrator in DePauw's education
"All of my titles were stripped from me, but I continue to do the work
that those titles carried with them," Price said. "I feel a sense of
professional responsibility and personal integrity that I need to stay
to help the students as they are coming through our program."
Price, a member of Independent Christian Church, said she feels she is
being harassed because of her religious beliefs.
In March 2001, Price made available to her students four issues of
Teachers in Focus magazine, published by Focus on the Family. One of
the magazines contained an article advising teachers on how to
confront homosexuality in public schools. Price says students were not
told they had to pick them up and the magazines were not part of an
assignment. A student in the class filed a complaint.
"When Christians are harassed and discriminated against in the
workplace, I think sometimes it is appropriate for them to leave but
others times it is not. It certainly would have been easier for me to
have left DePauw, but how in the world are Christians going to make a
difference in our culture if we are not light and salt in that
In March 2003, Putnam Circuit Court Judge Diana LaViolette dismissed
Price's claims that DePauw violated her freedom of speech, freedom of
religion and academic freedom. The Clay County jury was asked only to
decide whether DePauw violated its faculty handbook in the way it
handled Price's reappointment, and ruled in her favor. The Jan. 10
decision from the Indiana Court of Appeals reverses that ruling and
affirms DePauw's argument that it followed proper procedure in the
handling of the matter.
The Court of Appeals also rejected Price's claim that the lower court
inappropriately dismissed her claim of religious harassment.
"The Indiana Court of Appeals affirms what we have maintained from the
beginning: that DePauw scrupulously followed its employment policies
and practices every step of the way in this matter," said Ken Owen,
director of media relations at DePauw.
Price maintains she "wants the truth to be known and the Lord to be
honored through all of this."
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News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470