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Jury awards former DePauw University instructor over $10,000

11/13/2003 News media contact: Kathy Gilbert · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.

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The Arch on the east side of East College lawn at Depauw University was donated by the Class of 1890 in 1910. UMNS photo courtesy Depauw University, Photo number 03-472, Accompanies UMNS #551, 11/13/03
GREENCASTLE, Ind. (UMNS)--An Indiana court has ruled that DePauw University did not properly follow its faculty handbook when the United Methodist school suspended the teaching duties of a part-time instructor after she distributed religious materials in her classroom.

Janis Price, who remains an administrator in the school's education department, was awarded $10,401 in damages after a five-day trial. The monetary award is the amount of her lost wages as an instructor for a year.

Ken Owens, director of media relations for DePauw, said the case was about contract law and not about religious freedom. He said the university will file an appeal to clarify its employment policies.

Price was a part-time instructor at DePauw until July 2001. Her teaching duties were suspended after a student complained that issues of the magazine Teachers in Focus were being made available in the classroom. The magazine was published by Focus on the Family, a Colorado-based ministry.

The six-member jury unanimously ruled that DePauw University did not follow its academic handbook, Price told United Methodist News Service. "The reason they did not follow their academic handbook was religious harassment," she said.

Price says she has received support from Christians across the country after articles about her suit were published in a variety of media.

Owens says the jury misinterpreted the handbook and its contents. Price is an administrative employee and not a "term" employee.

"We are not trying to prolong things for her or for us," Owens said. "But a jury of lay persons was called upon to determine contract law, and we feel the jurists erred in their ruling. We feel it has significant ramifications for our employment policies."

In March, Putnam Circuit Court Judge Diana LaViolette dismissed Price's claims that DePauw violated her freedom of speech, freedom of religion and academic freedom.

DePauw University is one of 124 schools, colleges and universities related to the United Methodist Church.

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