SAN FRANCISCO – A former college biology professor is suing a Bay Area school district, claiming she was fired for answering a student's question about genetics and homosexual behavior.
June Sheldon with attorneys from the Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom and Pacific Justice Institute filed a suit on Wednesday against San Jose/Evergreen Community College district for wrong dismissal and violating her First Amendment rights.
In court papers, Sheldon said she was fired by the district after a student complained about her answer on how hereditary affects homosexual behavior in males and females. Attorneys representing the former San Jose City College professor argue that the district and school should have defended her, not terminated her.
"Teachers shouldn't be punished for doing their job as educators. They know that students can't be expected to make good, well-informed decisions if they're only hearing part of the story," said ADF attorney David Hacker in a statement.
"College officials have stripped a professor of the right to discuss competing theories and ideas in the classroom, something which represents the foundation of higher education."
It was about one year ago when Sheldon, who was teaching a summer human hereditary course as an adjunct professor at SJCC, was asked by a student during class how hereditary affects homosexual behavior in males and females. The question was based on a quiz the student had taken earlier.
Sheldon, who holds a master's degree in biology from San Jose State University, told the student that a well-known German scientist had found a correlation between maternal stress and homosexual behavior in males.
She noted, however, that the scientist's views are only one set of theories on that topic and that the students would study in the later chapter of the class textbook about other theories, including one that suggests homosexual behavior may be influenced by genes and the environment.
Another student in that class complained that Sheldon's comments were "offensive and unscientific" and the school probed into the matter.
"This teacher did nothing more than explain this fact," commented Hacker. "She is a dedicated and highly qualified professional who has been horribly wronged."
While the case centers around Sheldon's constitutional rights as an educator, it is not arguing for the school to uphold the views presented by Sheldon or the textbook.
Most evangelical Christians hold the view that homosexuality is a choice rather than a genetic condition.