AUSTIN (CN) - A former nursing professor claims in court that the Texas Board of Nursing unfairly disciplined him for accidentally posting on the Internet a long web chat about "fantasies of sexual contact with minors."
Rodney Wayne Hicks, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., sued the Texas Board of Nursing, its Executive Director Katherine Thomas and President Kristen Benton in Travis County Court.
Hicks claims that though he is primarily a professor, his license to practice as a nurse in Texas is encumbered by a July disciplinary order from the board that sanctioned him with a warning and stipulations.
"The order disciplines Dr. Hicks for inadvertently disseminating a sexually explicit chat to graduate nursing students in the course of creating an online tutorial for his software program, eLOGS," the complaint states. "The order requires Dr. Hicks to take remedial education courses, provide 64 hours of monthly direct patient care in Texas for a year, undergo monitoring of his clinical practice by another family nurse practitioner or doctor and undergo employer monitoring."
Hicks claims he slipped up because of unfamiliarity with the WebEx video-capture software that he used to create the tutorial for eLOGS.
"As a result, unbeknownst to Dr. Hicks, WebEx continued recording his computer screen activity for over six hours," the complaint states. "During that time, Dr. Hicks engaged in a sexually oriented fantasy chat in a private Internet chat room that encompassed various explicit and taboo topics. These topics include fantasies of sexual contact with minors, of sexual activity in the presence of minors, and other unorthodox sexual activity."
The entire chat was recorded onto the WebEx video file and automatically uploaded to the Internet when the computer was shut down, Hicks says in the complaint. A nursing student viewed the chat and reported it to the board and to police. Although Hicks was not criminally charged or arrested, the board referred him to a psychologist for a sex offender evaluation.
"No finding of pedophilia was present though the psychologist did diagnose Dr. Hicks with a personality disorder and a paraphilia," the complaint states.
Hicks claims the discipline and sanction should be voided because the chat was conducted in the privacy of his home and not within the scope of his nursing profession. He claimis there is no evidence that the chat took place while he was practicing, that he was merely providing a software tutorial for eLOGS, a program written by non-nurses that does not require nursing knowledge for use.
Hicks also claims that he was not acting as a nursing professor for Texas Tech at the time, that he was on vacation and that graduation for the semester had already taken place the week before.
"Dr. Hicks was acting merely as an eLOGS support person and not as a nursing professor," the complaint states.
Hicks claims that under board rules, he must be a practicing nurse during the misconduct to be disciplined. He claims the discipline is arbitrary, capricious and unconstitutional because it violates his free speech and privacy rights.
The stipulations are also arbitrary because the 64 hours of care requirement "makes the order a perpetual order because Dr. Hicks has no intention of living in Texas," the complaint states.
Hicks seeks judicial review and a reversal of the board's discipline. He is represented by Louis Leichter of Austin.Follow @davejourno
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