Judge lets go of medical student’s free speech trial

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) – Federal judge lets University of Virginia medical student pursue free speech lawsuit against school officials who suspended him after asking pointed questions to a panel on microaggressions.

School officials had asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit brought by student Kieran Bhattacharya, saying the questions he asked during a faculty-led panel in 2018 were offensive and unworthy of protection against the freedom of expression.

But U.S. District Judge Norman Moon sided with Bhattacharya. He ruled that the questions Bhattacharya asked during the question-and-answer session were pointed but academic in nature.

At one point, Bhattacharya said a panelist was giving conflicting answers on whether the recipient of a microagression should be part of a “marginalized” community. He also criticized the research on microaggressions as being anecdotal.

A faculty member issued a “professionalism concern card” against Bhattacharya after his questioning. The citation led to a requirement that Bhattacharya be assessed by a counselor before resuming classes and possibly a suspension.

Moon’s ruling, released on March 31, allows Bhattacharya’s case to go to trial or for a judge to issue summary judgment in favor of either party.

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