United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Jordan S. Kushner, Law Office of Jordan S. Kushner, appeared for Craig Keefe.
Kathryn M. Woodruff and Tamar Gronvall, Office of the Minnesota Attorney General, appeared for Beth Adams, Connie Frisch, and Kelly McCalla.
JOAN N. ERICKSEN, United States District Judge.
After his removal from Central Lakes College's associate degree nursing program, Craig Keefe brought this action against several individuals associated with the college or Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. He asserted claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2012), alleging that the defendants denied him due process, violated his right to free speech, violated his right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, violated his right to privacy, and conspired to violate his constitutional rights. By stipulation, Keefe's claims against Larry Lundblad, the president of Central Lakes College, and Steven Rosenstone, the chancellor and chief executive officer of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, as well as his claims of a conspiracy and of violations of his right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and his right to privacy, were dismissed. The remaining defendants--Beth Adams, Connie Frisch, and Kelly McCalla (collectively, Defendants)--moved for summary judgment on the remaining claims. Keefe moved to supplement the record after Defendants had submitted
their reply. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants Defendants' motion for summary judgment. The Court grants in part and denies in part Keefe's motion to supplement.
Keefe completed the practical nursing program at Central Lakes College in June 2011. Later that month, he became a licensed practical nurse. In fall 2011, Keefe enrolled in the college's associate degree nursing program, which prepares licensed practical nurses to become registered nurses. The associate degree nursing program requires students to attain at least 80% grade level in all nursing courses. At the end of the fall 2011 semester, Central Lakes College dismissed him from the associate degree nursing program because he had failed to attain at least 80% grade level in all nursing courses. After his dismissal, Keefe applied again for admission to the associate degree nursing program, the college admitted him, and he enrolled in fall 2012. In October 2012, Keefe was placed on a student success plan, which acknowledged his potential failure of at least one course. Toward the end of the fall 2012 semester, Central Lakes College dismissed him from the associate degree nursing program. His second dismissal from the program gave rise to this action.
As part of his enrollment in the fall 2012 semester, Keefe acknowledged receipt, review, and understanding of the associate degree nursing program student handbook. The handbook states that " [a]ll current and future students are expected to adhere to the policies and procedures of this student handbook as well as all policies of clinical agencies in which the student is placed." It asserts that student learning outcomes " reflect the 4 program outcomes of the [National League for Nursing] Education Competencies Model and include outcomes related to Human Flourishing, Nursing Judgment, Professional Identity, and Spirit of Inquiry." With respect to professional identity, a graduate of the program is able to:
demonstrate development of personal/professional behaviors by implementing one's role as a nurse in ways that reflect integrity, responsibility, ethical practices, and an evolving professional identity as a nurse committed to evidence-based practice, life-long learning, service learning/civic engagement, caring, advocacy, excellence, and safe quality care for diverse patients within a family and community context.
Under " Student Removal from Nursing Program," the handbook states that students who fail to meet professional standards are not eligible to progress in the program:
Integral to the profession of nursing is a concern for the welfare of the sick, injured, and vulnerable and for social justice; therefore students enrolled in the Associate Degree (AD) Nursing Program at Central Lakes College (CLC) accept the moral and ethical responsibilities that have been credited to the profession of nursing and are obligated to uphold and adhere to the professional Code of Ethics. The American Nurses Association (2001) Code for Nurses with Interpretive Statements outlines the goals, values, and ethical principles that direct the profession of nursing and is the standard by which ethical conduct is guided and evaluated by the profession. The A.D. Nursing Program at Central Lakes College has an obligation to graduate students who will provide safe, competent nursing care and uphold the moral and ethical principles of the profession of nursing. Therefore, students who fail to meet the moral, ethical, or
professional behavioral standards of the nursing program are not eligible to progress in the nursing program. Students who do not meet academic or clinical standards and/or who violate the student Code of Conduct as described in the Central Lakes College catalog and the A.D. Nursing Student Handbook are also ineligible to progress in the A.D. Nursing Program. Behaviors that violate academic, moral, and ethical standards include, but are not limited to, behaviors described in the College Catalog Student Code of Conduct as well as:
o unsafe behavior in a clinical setting;
o academic dishonesty (see examples outlined in college catalog);
o behaviors that violate the Student Code of Conduct (see examples outlined in college catalog);
o transgression of professional boundaries;
o breaching of confidentiality/HIPAA (including any type of social media breach);
o behavior unbecoming of the Nursing Profession.
Students who fail to adhere to the CLC Student Code of Conduct and the moral and ethical standards outlined in the handbook are ineligible to progress in the Nursing Program. See CLC student catalog for procedures related to Grade Appeals and Student Grievance policies and procedures.
Reports about statements Keefe had made on his Facebook page started the process that culminated in Keefe's second dismissal from the associate degree nursing program. In November 2012, a student, who was enrolled in a lecture course with Keefe, expressed concerns to the instructor, Kim Scott, about statements Keefe had made online. The student regarded the statements as threatening and related to the classroom. Scott responded that she could not assess the statements without knowing exactly what Keefe had said. The next day, the student returned with a few pages that contained Keefe's statements. After reviewing them, Scott, who has almost 30 years' experience in the nursing field as a nurse, an instructor, and an administrator, concluded that they should be brought to the attention of Connie Frisch, the college's dean of nursing since July 2012 and its director of nursing since 2009.
Within a few days, a different student, who was enrolled in a clinical course with Keefe, approached Scott at the start of a clinical shift and asked to speak to her in private. Scott and the student stepped outside, and the student stated Keefe had made statements online that made the student upset, nervous, and uncomfortable. The student did not think she could function in the same space as Keefe. Scott separated the student from Keefe during the clinical shift. Later, the student sent to Scott an e-mail that contained Keefe's statements. Scott regarded the statements as very derogatory, inappropriate, and unprofessional. She forwarded the statements, as well as those that the first student had given to her, to Frisch.
The following statements were among those forwarded to Frisch:
o Can someone, anyone tell me wtf I need to continue to do a compentency and be evaluated on it. If I do a compentency such as write a care plan and get signed off on it that it is
thorough and I have a great understanding about them than why must I continue or better yet what is the incentive to get it signed off. Controlling freaks. I cant wait for this shit to be done.
o Glad group projects are group projects. I give her a big fat F for changing the group power point at eleven lastnight and resubmitting. Not ...