A Real Failure to Communicate

     EUGENE, Ore. (CN) – A University of Oregon sign language instructor claims he was suspended because disruptive students complained that he’d asked them “if they wanted to be shot.” The prof says the students took the phrase out of context from a story he told them about traveling in Pakistan, where, he said, he would have been shot if he did not respect the local culture.
     Peter Quint sued the University of Oregon and three administrations in Federal Court. He claimed the failed to accommodate his deafness and failed to take action against disruptive students in his class.
     Because he is deaf, Quint said, he had difficulty controlling a group of students whom he could not hear or see talking.
     “Plaintiff believed that the only reason the students felt free to talk and disrupt his class was because of his disability,” he says in his complaint.
     Quint says he discussed the problem during spring term this year with his supervisor, defendant Kathy Roberts, who suggested videotaping the class. He says this did not improve the situation, which came to a head in May.
     When a group of students continued to talk, Quint says, he stopped teaching to tell a story “that contained lessons about tolerance and communication which plaintiff learned while living in Pakistan. A central theme in the story was if plaintiff did not respect the local customs and culture while in Pakistan, he would have been shot. Plaintiff told this story in hopes that the students would respect his teaching policies and stop engaging in disruptive and discriminatory conduct.”
     Apparently it didn’t work.
     “During that same class, the group of students continued to talk at times when plaintiff could not see them talking or understand what they were saying,” the complaint states.
     “Upon learning of this behavior plaintiff made a statement during an in-class discussion that tied back into the story plaintiff previously told the class asking the students as a whole if they wanted to be shot. Plaintiff’s statement was taken out of context and used by the same students who engaged in the discriminatory conduct to have plaintiff suspended from teaching.”
     Quint says his supervisor, defendant Michael Bullis suspended him for the rest of the year, without a hearing and without giving him a chance to explain his side of the story.
     He seeks damages for failure to provide reasonable accommodation, hostile work environment, and civil rights violations, including due process and free speech.
     He is represented by Kevin Tillson with Hunt & Associates, of Portland.

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