Doyle Byrnes, a 22-year-old nursing student at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, KS, is suing the school in federal court for dismissing her from its registered nursing program in response to a photo she posted on her Facebook page showing her posing with a human placenta in a lab class, according to a report in the Kansas City Star.
Byrnes reportedly was one of seven students from the large junior college located in the suburb of Kansasa City, MO who were involved in the Nov. 10 incident, which occurred during an off-campus clinical lab course at Olathe Medical Center in nearby Olathe, KS.
One of the students received permission from the instructor to take the photo of Byrnes and four other students posing individually with the placenta specifically to post on Facebook, reports the Star, citing court documents. According to the lawsuit, the instructor merely said, "Oh, you girls," and did not tell them not to do it or that they could be disciplined for it..
Only Byrnes is believed to have posted a photo on her Facebook account, and for just 3 hours, immediately taking it down after receiving a telephone call from the instructor that evening telling her to remove it. All four of the students who posed for the photos were dismissed from the nursing program the next day, according to the Star. It is unclear why the other three received no disciplinary action. Other than Byrnes, none of the students are named in the lawsuit, the Star reports.
"Your demeanor and lack of professional behavior surrounding this event was considered a disruption to the learning environment and did not exemplify the professional behavior that we expect in the nursing program," Jeanne Walsh, director of nursing at the college, reportedly wrote in a letter to Byrnes that is included as an exhibit with the complaint.
According to the Star, Byrnes also included in her lawsuit a letter she wrote to Walsh seeking leniency:
"In my excitement to be able to share with my loved ones the phenomenal learning experience in which I had been blessed enough to take part, I did not consider that others might view this photograph as unprofessional, offensive to the school I was representing and more importantly the sanctity of human life," Byrnes reportedly wrote. "For my actions I am truly sorry."
The school has since said the students could seek readmission in the fall and finish the nursing program in May 2012, according to report from the Associated Press, and Walsh has indicated she would support Byrnes were she to attempt to do so.
Byrnes, however, reportedly planned to graduate in May, get married in August and move to Virginia to begin her career as an RN in the fall. Hence, the lawsuit, which seeks a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to force the school to reinstate her before classes resume Jan. 19. She has since closed her Facebook account.
According to the Star, Byrnes' attorney, Clifford Cohen, argues his client was deprived of due process in being summarily dismissed from the nursing program when the school's code of conduct does not address photographs or social media.
"With this kind of black mark on her record, who knows whether she can enroll in another nursing school," Cohen told the Star. "Would she be able to get a job?"