In Thompson v. Ragland, No. 21-1143, 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 2427, at *1, *18 (10th Cir. Jan. 26, 2022), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held that it is clearly established in this circuit that a university official cannot impose “discipline” on a student for their speech “without good reason.” Because the law was clearly established at the time of the university official’s conduct—even if there was not applicable “precedent with identical facts”—the court reversed the district court’s decision to grant qualified immunity to the official who had disciplined the student. Id. at *18.

The Classroom Dispute

A student at Metropolitan State University (MSU), Rowan Thompson, had a classroom dispute with her chemistry professor. Thompson has an eye condition that makes her sensitive to light. As a result, she must sit in the first three rows of a classroom to see the board. In her chemistry class, however, she arrived late on two occasions, and there were no seats left in the first three rows. In order to see, Thompson chose to sit on the floor in the front row. The professor, unhappy with having Thompson sitting on the floor, instructed Thompson to either take a seat or leave. Thompson left.