Nursing Student Expelled For Essay Based on True Life Case Deemed ‘Insensitive’

Kaylyn Willis

A nursing student at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, Kaylyn Willis was expelled after writing an essay about a shooting that administrators labeled “insensitive.”  Each week, her professor instructed students to use “critical imagining” to write and post online a story from the perspective of a person suffering from a chronic disease or disorder. For the sixth week’s assignment, the professor asked students to reflect on the support systems of chronically ill individuals and how a person with a chronic illness might respond to the sudden and unexpected loss of a support system. Willis submitted an imagined scenario about a woman suffering from ALS who shoots and kills her husband, her primary caretaker. She intended the post to be an exploration of the deterioration of mental health caused by a chronic illness and drew from a publicized case where a man was found not guilty of murdering his wife and sister-in-law because of ALS-related mental health issues. Willis also researched support groups for incarcerated people suffering from ALS. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education wrote a letter on Aug. 16 to UCC arguing that Willis’ reflection post constituted protected speech and calling on the school to reverse the expulsion and clear Willis’ disciplinary record, but UCC — through an outside attorney — refused.

Take Action

Contact the Umpqua Community College Director for Student Engagement/Dean of Students, Marjan Coester. Call her at 541-440-7749, or email her at

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