A college professor in Florida has been accused of discriminating against a 16-year-old virtual student in his Humanities course for not conforming to his anti-Christian worldview. Now the college has thrown its support behind the professor.
According to Dr. Susan Berry of Breitbart News, Polk State College in Lakeland, Fla. has doubled down in supporting Professor Lance "L.J." Russum. Attorneys representing the college forwarded their response in a letter to the nonprofit law firm Liberty Counsel, which is representing student Grace Lewis and her parents.
"[T]he College affirmatively asserts that your allegation of discrimination is baseless, without merit, and absolutely lacking any factual support," attorneys Donald H. Wilson and W.A. "Drew" Crawford wrote to Liberty Counsel. "Your entire letter, which is based upon this hollow and indefensible allegation, fails to acknowledge long-standing academic practice, and legally fails to establish any claim against either the College or its employee."
According to Breitbart News, Lewis, who had a 3.9 grade point average, received a score of "zero" on four consecutive essay assignments in Russum's Humanities class. He supposedly demanded that her responses "conform to his anti-Christian worldviews."
"The four assignments for which she received zeroes were part of fifteen essays required for the class, and those fifteen essays represented forty percent of the total grade for the class," Wilson and Crawford wrote. "Your client received excellent marks on the other work and exams that were part of the class, and the total of those grades entitled her to an overall 'A' for the class."
The college's attorneys concluded that "this student has not been in any way damage or disadvantaged by the professor's actions."
Lewis's mother, Kristin Lewis, told Breitbart News that the family is "thankful Grace's final grade of what she deserved." However, she contended that the "A" grade only occurred after they contacted the Dean and gained the support of Liberty Counsel.
"In order for her to get a 90, we have observed that Mr. Russum gave her an 80 (with no explanation) after four zeros, gave her a 100 on the final, and then dropped one of her zero papers," Kristin said. "Her final paper was excellent; but so were the four essays that received zeros. Why the turn around?"
Lewis's mom added that even though her daughter received an "A" for her work, she wanted to insure "that this same thing will not happen to other Polk State students in the future." However, the college's attorneys stood by their decision behind the essays with "zero" grades.
"These experienced educators have agreed unanimously that in each instance the student chose to reject the specific assignment that was given, stating that she disagreed with the nature or premise of the question and then launching into an apparent effort to defend her Christian beliefs," Wilson and Crawford wrote. "The overall fallacy of your position rests singly on the premise that an instructor should not require a student to consider, discuss or present arguments that are contrary to his/her personal beliefs. Such a position shows apparent ignorance of long-standing academic practice."
Liberty Counsel posted one of Russum's questions online. Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, told Breitbart News that the school's letter from attorneys "shows a bigger problem at this school."
"Russum is a militant atheist who is proselytizing atheism at this school," Staver said.
Staver backed up his claim based on what Russum posted about himself on the Internet. He argued that Russum's actions in the classroom were "unconstitutional."
"A professor should not be proselytizing his personal worldview in his classroom," Staver said. "It would be just as inappropriate to have an evangelical proselytizing professor."