EUGENE, Ore. (CN) - An Oregon community college failed to protect a Pakistani-American Muslim instructor from escalating threats from a neo-Nazi student who said students were reading his thoughts and "trying to keep him from murdering anyone," the teacher claims in court.
Nadia Khalid Raza sued Lane Community College in Federal Court, claiming she had to stop teaching on campus and move to online courses because Lane refused to protect her from the ex-Marine's increasingly threatening behavior.
"Lane's response made a terrifying situation much worse," Raza said in a statement. "As a faculty member, I rely on our college to provide a safe and non-discriminatory work environment and respond with expertise when it's needed."
The school is the only defendant, which identifies the student only as S.S.
Raza's attorney Jennifer Middleton, with Johnson Johnson & Schaller, said that was for safety reasons.
"She still sees him from time to time and we don't know what his status is," Middleton told Courthouse News.
Lane Community College serves about 35,000 full- and part-time students on six campuses, including two in Eugene.
Raza says S.S. approached her in January 2014 on the first day of her Race and Ethnicity class and said he was a Marine who had been stationed in Afghanistan. He turned in a paper saying he was "affiliated with neo-Nazis and had a background in competitive mixed martial arts," according to the complaint.
She says S.S. "appeared to take particular interest in her as a Pakistani-Muslim woman," and sent her a flurry of "increasingly personal emails," asking her to meet him off campus. She refused, and reported the emails to her department chairman Philip Martinez and to the college's public safety department.
Lane public safety officers cited S.S. with harassment under the student code of conduct, according to the complaint. But the college refused to let Raza participate in S.S.'s student conduct hearing, though the school's sexual harassment complaint resolution process directs the school to allow involvement by the complainant, Raza says.
"They were concerned about student privacy laws," Middleton said. "We believe their reading of the student privacy laws was mistaken. But it seems that it went beyond that and we don't know why. Hopefully, that's one of the things we'll find out."
After the hearing, dean of student affairs Barbara Delansky told Raza the school had told S.S. to drop Raza's class and stop harassing her, according to the complaint. Delansky said S.S. was a "good kid" and that "rejection is hard."
Delansky did not return a phone call requesting comment.
But Raza says the school did not prohibit S.S. from contacting her. She says he sent her an email saying the whole thing was a "misunderstanding" and that "he was confused about whether she had wanted him to be cited for harassment, since she had not been part of the student conduct hearing."