A tenured professor at Florida Atlantic University who was fired earlier this year after writing that the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was an elaborate hoax has filed a lawsuit claiming his rights to free speech, due process and academic freedom were violated.
James Tracy, who had been an associate professor, filed the lawsuit Monday in federal court against the university, some of its leaders and the faculty union representatives, challenging the constitutionality of the university’s “conflict of interest/outside activities” policy, charging the university violated its own principles of academic freedom and broke its agreement with the faculty union. The lawsuit also accuses the United Faculty of Florida, two of its officials and the Florida Education Association of helping the university fire him rather than defending him.
Tracy’s case has been closely watched, by both free-speech and academic-freedom advocates and by people shocked by his views.
Tracy has questioned the 2012 mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., when police and media reported 27 people, including 20 young children, were killed by a gunman who then shot himself. Tracy has written that it was all a hoax staged in an effort to pass gun-control laws.
“Both Florida Atlantic University administrators and the University’s faculty union claim they are committed to protecting constitutional rights and principles of academic freedom, but their actions speak loud and clear,” said Louis Leo IV of the Florida Civil Rights Coalition and Medgebow Law, in a statement issued Tuesday.
“Tenure, free speech, due process and academic freedom are under attack. Without judicial intervention,  employees and faculty at Florida Atlantic University and other universities around the United States, will continue to be censored, deterred or chilled from sharing unpopular information or or opinions for fear that they will be disciplined on a pretext.”
Joshua Glanzer, a spokesman for Florida Atlantic University, said in an email Tuesday, “We do not comment on any pending litigation, and we have yet to be served in this case.”
Tracy had been threatened by the the university with disciplinary action in 2013, according to the case, but was successfully defended by union representatives. He added language, suggested by the university, according to the case, to his blog saying his writings were his opinions and not those of any institution.