ROCHESTER (WWJ/AP) – A 57-year-old man suspended from Oakland University for writing about his attraction to teachers has filed a lawsuit seeking more than $2 million and four credits for the class.
Joseph Corlett says his First Amendment rights were violated by university officials. The school suspended him for three semesters last year after saying he violated a policy against intimidating people on campus. He said he was also warned that he’d be arrested for criminal trespass if he entered the campus during his suspension.
Corlett, a then 56-year-old student enrolled in an advanced critical writing class, titled his journal entries “Hot For Teacher,” after a song by the rock band Van Halen, as part of assignment on diary-style composition.
“My first battle with the hot for teacher thing, aside from second grade, was fought in Composition I at Oakland Community College. She was blonde and attractive in the Meg Ryan kind of way which I usually don’t go for… I shouldn’t have taken her for Comp 2 but I couldn’t resist smart and pretty… Her skirt came unzipped in Comp 2 one day and her polka-dotted panties were exposed. I was a perfect gentleman and discretely told her to pull her sweater over. She smiled and thanked me. It is our delicious little secret,” the essay read.
Corlett then wrote about another instructor, comparing her to Ginger, an attractive woman on the 1960s TV show “Gilligan’s Island.”
“Holy s*** I should drop right now, there is no way I’ll concentrate in class especially with that sexy little mole on her upper lip beckoning with every accented word. And that smile,” Corlett’s essay read.
The essay goes on to describe another teacher who is “tall, blonde and stacked” in a “skirt, heels, fingernails, smile,” that is “smart and articulate.” He basically said, in the essay he turned in to her, that her looks were distracting.
In a continuation of the essay, Corlett describes two of his other female teachers, saying: “I’m not a maniac for every female although I try to find something attractive about everyone… However, my history professor sets off my gaydar and [teacher] does not. I could not have sex with either of these women even if you offered me a million dollars cash. I couldn’t get the necessary cooperation, if you get my drift.”
In other journal entries, Corlett described sleeping in the nude with his gun and making a fellow female student uncomfortable when he looked up her number and called her home.
“I’ve had a few worries lately, the first that Lynn Anne, my wife, would read this. But now I don’t care. I suppose my fear is a good sign that I’m writing honestly,” Corlett wrote.
Corlett’s lawsuit, filed Friday, calls the writings “whimsical exaggeration.”
“It’s highly complimentary,” Corlett said of the essays after his suspension. “The very essence of what I’m saying is that I’m inspired by her relentless teaching style …When you’re in that woman’s class she is on and it’s inspiring. It’s a great experience. It had nothing to do with her physical appearance whatsoever.”
A message seeking comment was left for an Oakland University spokesman.
MORE: OU Student Suspended For ‘Hot For Teacher’ Essay Says ‘It’s Ageism’
Journal Entries Get Older Student Suspended From Oakland University
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School assignments are supposed to make students think critically, but what if the assignment involved pondering suicide? Parents in the Charente region of western France are outraged over an essay assigned to their 13- and 14-year-old children that instructed them to take the perspective of a teenager who has decided to commit suicide, asking them to justify the reasoning of the act by describing “the disgust you feel for yourself.” The teacher responsible at the Montmoreau-Saint-Cybard secondary school has been suspended pending an investigation and faces possible sanctions by public education authorities — though the stern reaction has hardly quelled the controversy the disturbing project provoked.
And for good reason: suicide is the second most frequent cause of death among people under the age of 25 in France. Experts say about 50,000 people aged 12-20 try to kill themselves each year, around 600 of whom succeed.
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The assignment was handed out in late October, but was only revealed in the Dec. 10 edition of regional paper Charente Libre. The news broke when parents wrote to the daily to complain about impressionable adolescents being told to adopt a first-person perspective of the suicidal impulse — and go into detail rationalizing the act of self-destruction.
“You’ve just turned 18 years old,” the protesting parents quoted the assignment. “You’ve decided to end your life. Your decision seems irrevocable. On a final impulse, you’ve decided to explain the reasons for your act. In creating a self-portrait, you describe the disgust you feel for yourself. Your text will re-examine some of the events of your life that have led to this feeling.”
The parents of students involved took the same tack in objecting to the assignment. “We’re disgusted that 13- and 14-year-old children could be given this kind of topic,” said one. Another was more moderate, noting, “We’re not in the habit of questioning what goes on in class, but there are limits.” A third feared what could happen if this assignment was allowed to skate by unquestioned: “What’s the next topic: ‘What do you feel when you’re shooting up?’”
The unidentified teacher is reportedly a 30-year-old man described as being respected and admired by both colleagues and students. Pupils in his class were quoted by the French press shrugging off the assignment as no big deal. And, on Tuesday, an association representing parents at the school issued a communiqué demanding the teacher’s “immediate return to his post for the good of our children” and denouncing the “excessive and inappropriate” attention and outcry to the essay assignment.
That earnest defense notwithstanding, the rising tragedy of youth suicide is already a grave enough concern in France that it seems most likely that outsiders will view the topic of the essay — not the reaction it provoked — as the inappropriate element in the controversy.
MORE: The War On Suicide?