University President Held Personally Liable for Due Process Violations
Several days ago a federal jury found the President of Valdosta State University liable for $50,000 in compensatory damages for failing to follow notice and due process procedures prior to expelling a student. With a Complaint first filed in 2008, Barnes v. Zaccari involved student Haden Barnes' protest of Valdosta State's decision to build two parking structures. The protest consisted of a collage of photographs posted on Facebook, distribution of flyers voicing objection to the parking garages, and emails to President Ronald Zaccari and board members.
In response, the President ordered Barnes "administratively withdrawn" from the school on the grounds Barnes represented a "clear and present danger." No notice, other than the notice of dismissal, was provided. Nor was there an opportunity to be heard.
In September 2010, the court granted Barnes partial summary judgment finding President Zaccari had failed to provide due process. In February 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. Upon remand and trial, a jury found the president personally liable for $50,000 on February 1 of this year. The facts give a full picture and are worth a read. They can be found in the partial summary judgment order and decision of the Eleventh Circuit.