A federal appeals court on Wednesday ordered dismissal of a lawsuit filed by a former UMKC lecturer who said he lost his job after claiming the school gave athletes preferential treatment.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the two university officials named in the lawsuit were personally entitled to immunity from liability.
Henry Lyons was a part-time lecturer at the university until his contract was not renewed in 2012.
Lyons filed suit, alleging that it was retaliation after he raised concerns about the university awarding a passing grade to a student-athlete who had failed one of his courses. The NCAA eventually cleared the school of any rules violations in connection with the grade change.
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Lyons contended the university violated his free speech rights as a public employee.
A district court judge refused to dismiss the suit, and the UMKC officials appealed.
On Wednesday, the court of appeals ruled that the judge erred and the suit should be dismissed.
The court found that Lyons raised his concerns in a meeting with the university chancellor, and in that context it was not constitutionally protected speech.
“In these circumstances, Lyons has failed to show, using the particularized inquiry required, that his right to make this speech in these circumstances was clearly established,” the appeals court ruled.
In a brief written statement, university officials said they were “pleased” with the decision, but couldn’t comment further until a thorough review of the court’s opinion.