Judge Lets Med Student's Free-Speech Lawsuit Move Ahead

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — A federal judge is letting a University of Virginia medical student move ahead with his free-speech lawsuit against school officials who suspended him after he asked pointed questions at a panel about microaggressions.

School officials had asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit brought by student Kieran Bhattacharya, saying the questions he asked during a 2018 faculty-led panel were offensive and unworthy of free-speech protections.

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 contradictory answers about whether a recipient of a microaggression must be part of a “marginalized" community. He also criticized the research on microaggressions as anecdotal.

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

Moon's ruling, issued March 31, allows Bhattacharya's case to either go to trial or for a judge to issue a summary judgement ruling in favor of one side or the other.