University settles with professor over court testimony

Tuesday, May 7, 2019
 | 
Bob Kellogg (OneNewsNow.com)

Gavel and education 620x300A public university has learned a lesson about free speech after it fired a professor who testified as an expert witness in a controversial criminal trial.

According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Plymouth State adjunct professor Nancy Strapko was called to testify in the sentencing phase of a high school counselor who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 14-year-old student.

FIRE attorney Zach Greenberg says the community was outraged that Straptko testified late last year on behalf of the defendant, Kristie Torbick, and the university bowed to pressure and fired the professor.

It didn’t help that Torbick was sentenced to 2 ½ years when the prosecutor had asked for five to 10 years.

Plymouth State, located in Plymouth, New Hampshire, is home to approximately 4,200 students.   

"The school was taking a lot of heat from the community,” Greenberg tells OneNewsNow, “and the school, once they received this heat, they cited the controversy created by the testimony and fired her, refusing to rehire her because of this controversy."

Strapko fought her firing, however, and the school agreed to a $350,000 settlement instead of moving ahead with a lawsuit. 

It is not legal, says the FIRE attorney, to retaliate against employees for testifying in a criminal trial.

FIRE has called Plymouth State one of the 10 worst colleges for free speech after it fired Strapko, when the university had earned a “green light” from the free speech watchdog before the firing.

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