A graduate student who obtained her master’s degree in May has filed a lawsuit against an Illinois college. The student claims she was disciplined for sharing her conservative and Christian beliefs with students and teachers who had opposing viewpoints.
Maggie DeJong enrolled in a master’s degree in Art Therapy Counseling at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, in May 2022, after graduating magna cum laude from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2018.
Art therapy, a mental health profession combining art and psychotherapy, is a minor field with only a few thousand professionals.
She shared her Christian beliefs and Conservative viewpoints with fellow students and professors throughout the first few years. Despite their differences from the majority of her peers, they seemed to get along pretty smoothly.
All of that changed just a few months before Ms. DeJong was to get her master’s degree. She received three “no contact” orders from school administrators without any warning or complaint from any professor or fellow student.
“I was alarmed when I had received three no-contact orders that prevented me from having direct or indirect communication with these three students,” DeJong said Friday during an appearance on “Fox & Friends First”. She and an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, Tyson Langhoffer, spoke about the censorship she endured earlier this year.
“Essentially, they were restraining orders that applied to on and off-campus,” she declared.
The ADF sued Randall G. Pembrook, the university’s former chancellor, Equal Opportunity Director Jamie Ball, and Megan Robb, the Program Director of the Art Therapy Counseling Graduate Program, on behalf of DeJong.
After a few fellow graduate students complained that DeJong’s opinions and social media posts “harmed” them, school officials basically tried to suppress her, the ADF says.
According to court documents, Ms. DeJong does not support Black Lives Matter (Racist Hate Group) because of the organization’s call to “destroy the Western-prescribed nuclear family.” She shared information critical of BLM on her social media platforms, including a link to a Black Lives Matter (Racist Hate Group) paper titled “What We Believe.”
Several of her teachers and classmates backed the BLM and joined calls to defund police, believing that they were systemically racist.
In February 2021, the art student came to class wearing a hat with a black and white American flag with a single thin blue line stripe. According to court filings, she wore the “Back the Blue” hat to show her support for law enforcement.
“Defendant Robb noted during class that Ms. DeJong was wearing the hat and asked her to explain why she was wearing it,” her lawyers informed the court. “Ms. DeJong said that she was wearing the hat to show her support for law enforcement and explained her belief that defunding the police would hurt society.”
DeJong refused to remove the hat, despite the fact that some students claimed it was a sign of oppression and that she was a racist for wearing it.
Professor Robb mentioned in class months later that DeJong had previously worn a blue-lives-matter hat. DeJong’s peers described the headgear as “unsafe,” comparing it to someone eating peanut butter near someone who has a peanut allergy.
One of the students who submitted a complaint against DeJong was “S.W.” “We all have to censor ourselves because we have to keep the peace,” she allegedly said. “We must act in the best interests of the wider public.”
Robb allegedly added that DeJong was entitled to her viewpoint “unless it harms others.”
Defendant Ball issued three no-contact orders against Ms. DeJong on February 10, 2022, relating to Students A.S., T.P., and S.W.
Ms. DeJong was forbidden from having “any contact” or even “indirect communication” with the Student under each order.
“This Order is not an indication of responsibility for a violation of University policy;” noted former chancellor Pembrook, “rather, it is intended to prevent interactions that could be perceived by either party as unwelcome, retaliatory, intimidating, or harassing.”
DeJong was told that “if at any time” Ms. DeJong “need[ed] to communicate” with the complainant, “you may do so only through me or a third party explicitly authorized by me.”
Each of the three directives included a copy of Lieutenant Adam Severit of the SIUE Police Department.
Her lawyers wrote to Pembrook on February 23, requesting that the no-contact order be lifted.
Orders were issued on February 28. DeJong found out about the claims against her on March 10.
On May 31, she filed a lawsuit against the college administrators in the Southern District of Illinois District Court.
— Alliance Defending Freedom (@ADFLegal) June 9, 2022