A former professor has reached a settlement with William & Mary several months after filing a discrimination lawsuit.
After finalizing a settlement earlier this month, David Dessler, a former government professor who worked at the university for 32 years, has dismissed a lawsuit against William & Mary and Williamsburg-James City County Commonwealth’s Attorney Nathan Green.
The suit was dismissed with prejudice, meaning the case cannot be brought back to court, on Monday, according to documents filed in federal court.
In the settlement, the college also denies any wrongdoing and does not admit to any guilt.
The lawsuit alleged the college “silenced” Dessler when he attempted to speak out about student mental health during the fall 2015 semester.
Dessler’s complaint stated William & Mary used its campus police department to control his communication and movement by arresting him five times over a yearlong period.
Dessler was arrested on four charges of harassment by computer and one failure to appear between February 2016 and January 2017, according to court records. The arrests occurred while Dessler was on medical leave from the college and was barred from contacting college officials.
The suit also alleged four other constitutional and civil violations, saying the college:
- Failed to provide “reasonable accommodation” for Dessler’s disability (a “long-standing” diagnosis of depression) under the Americans with Disabilities Act
- Took “adverse employment actions” against Dessler because of his disability
- Did not hold a due-process hearing – a right all tenured professors have – before terminating Dessler’s employment
- Violated Dessler’s First Amendment rights by banning him from campus and preventing him from speaking with faculty and students.
William & Mary spokeswoman Suzanne Seurattan said the settlement resolves “all of Dr. Dessler’s legal claims against the university and its employees.”
The settlement states Dessler releases the university and the Commonwealth of Virginia from all liabilities, claims, actions, demands, damages and costs of “every nature.”
The settlement includes the signatures of Dessler, two witnesses, a notary public and William & Mary President Taylor Reveley.
“I am happy to have reached a resolution with the university, and I consider this matter closed. I wish everyone at the College well,” Dessler said Monday.
In a prepared university statement, Seurattan said: “This matter has been a long, complex and draining. The university has acted appropriately and compassionately from the beginning with Dr. Dessler.…Taking this matter to trial would have entailed significant emotional costs for our employees as well as financial costs for the university. It was time for closure.”
Seurattan also added the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a dismissal and right to sue letter on Sept. 28, 2017, after Dessler filed a charge of discrimination. The EEOC stated it was “unable to establish violations of the statute” in the matter.
“The University vigorously denies the claims and does not admit the validity of the legal or factual positions asserted by the [lawsuit], and nothing contained herein shall be deemed an admission against interest,” the settlement states.
Dessler’s attorney, Shannon Beebe, declined to comment for this story.
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