- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 16, 2020

A former Florida beauty queen sued a law school and the Department of Education for $25 million claiming the university expelled her because she supports President Trump.

Christina McLaughlin launched the 114-page legal complaint Thursday against Florida International University School of Law and the Department of Education. She never failed a class, yet she was dismissed for failing to meet academic standards, she said.

Officials also denied her request to have legal counsel present at a hearing where she contested her dismissal sans prior notice, according to the complaint.

The federal court filing details how one professor told Ms. McLaughlin she was “immoral” for supporting Mr. Trump, while another professor performed a skit in front of his classroom, wearing a Make America Great Again hat, pretending to be a Trump supporter by affecting a Southern accent and acting mentally ill.

The skit ended with a laptop being thrown at the Trump supporter.

“It was threatening — not that I felt I was going to be physically attacked — but threatening in that I saw the vitriol toward Trump supporters,” Ms. McLaughlin told The Washington Times.

“This complaint is to help protect other students who have had their voice silenced by liberal universities and colleges,” said Ms. McLaughlin, 24, who also is running as a GOP candidate for a House seat in South Florida.

Her lawsuit is the latest in a flurry of allegations of discrimination against conservatives on college campuses.

Earlier this year, lawyers from Alliance Defending Freedom confronted officials at the University of Wisconsin–River Falls after the school attempted to silence a student recruiting people for a conservative club on campus.

Sofie Salmon, who was a freshman at the time, walked around campus last year with friends, rolling a beach ball labeled a “free speech ball” allowing students to write various messages on it. School officials told Ms. Salmon she had to pay for a reserved spot to engage in that sort of activity on campus.

After lawyers intervened, warning school officials about the infringement on First Amendment rights, the school changed its policy. Now students at the college are permitted to engage in “spontaneous expressive activity” without prior permission.

“Today’s college students are our future legislators, judges, and voters. That’s why it’s so important that public universities model the First Amendment values they’re supposed to be teaching students,” said Tyson Langhofer, director at ADF’s Center for Academic Freedom.

Mr. Langhofer has another client from a Florida state college who was removed from a student government position for commenting in a private message that Black Lives Matter — and aligned liberal groups — have messaging that runs contrary to his Catholic faith, such as the church’s pro-life teaching.

“It is a nationwide problem,” he said. “No doubt we have cases in California, cases in Minnesota, cases in Texas, cases in Florida, Virginia — it is not limited to one area.”

Cabot Phillips, editor-in-chief at the conservative news website Campus Reform, said he’s covered conservative students being suspended from school, removed from student government, assaulted by peers, and discriminated against for wearing MAGA hats. He said the conduct suggests campuses are no longer a marketplace of ideas.

“Most college campuses have become centers for indoctrination and groupthink, where conservative opinions are snuffed out,” he said, adding the problem lingers because teachers and schools are rarely held accountable.

In Ms. McLaughlin’s case, she said professors learned about her Republican affiliation from social media photographs after she attended a Trump victory party. She said instructors immediately began treating her differently — including not answering questions she would pose to them after class.

Ms. McLaughlin went on to graduate from another accredited law school in Florida but said her formal complaint filed two years ago about the treatment from FIU went unanswered by the Department of Education. She said she’s incurred tuition expenses, lost internships and suffered from attempts at delaying her legal career.

The Department of Education and officials from Florida International University School of Law did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Times.

Since graduating last year from Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, Florida, Ms. McLaughlin has launched a long-shot bid to represent the state’s 19th Congressional District. She’s running against more than half a dozen other Republican candidates in the Aug. 18 primary.

She said she’s hoping to raise awareness of the indoctrination on college campuses by liberal professors, and help show the Trump administration where the abuse is occurring.

“I’m certainly eager to talk about it and represent the students who have experienced abuse in the classrooms — but win or lose this election — I’m still going to use whatever platform I have to advocate on this issue,” she said.

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