A former Collin College professor filed a lawsuit against the college Wednesday for actions she alleges violated her rights to free speech and due process.
According to a civil complaint obtained by Star Local Media, former education professor Suzanne Jones of Plano was denied an employment contract renewal in January for “challeng[ing] Collin College’s [COVID-19] reopening plans” and two incidents in which Jones used the school’s name in making public expression.
Per the documents, the first of these incidents took place in August 2017, when Jones signed an open letter supporting the removal of a Confederate monument in Dallas. In signing this letter, Jones put “Collin College” under her signature. That same month, two college officials reportedly asked her to remove mention of the school in this letter.
“At no time during this correspondence did any administrator of Collin College discipline Jones or indicate that her use of her professional contact information for opposition to confederate monuments in Texas was grounds for nonrenewal of her teaching contract,” the complaint said.
The second alleged incident, which took place in September 2020, involved Jones announcing the formation of a local chapter of the Texas Faculty Association (TFA), a non-collective bargaining union. Per the complaint, a school official promptly requested that Jones remove any mention of Collin College in TFA’s website.
Jones alleges in the complaint that the school’s decision not to renew her contract was retaliation for her expressed opinions and that she was in otherwise good standing as an employee. She also accuses school officials of denying a request to call Collin College President H. Neil Matkin and now-retired Vice President Toni Jenkins as witnesses in her grievance hearing, which was initially postponed so that Jones could request witnesses.
Despite Jenkins not being added to Jones’ witness list, Jones alleges that the Collin College Review Resolution Panel, which oversees employee grievance hearings, “had private, ex parte conversations with Jenkins about Jones’ nonrenewal.”
Jones is requesting a jury trial and is seeking reinstatement of employment and accompanying benefits, the complaint says.
When reached for comment, Collin College Communications Director Marisela Cadena-Smith said in an email, “Collin College follows Board-approved policies and procedures regarding the yearly review of faculty contracts and its non-renewal processes. While it is regrettable that a former faculty member has chosen to file a lawsuit, the College looks forward to defending its actions in court. Out of respect for our former employee and due to pending litigation, we will make no further public statement regarding this matter.”
On Thursday, Jones said she and her attorney are not making any further comment.