PBAU professor fired after parent complains about racial justice lesson

Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 5:05 PM EDT
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A professor at Palm Beach Atlantic University is out of a job because of what he said was his “decision to teach and speak about racial justice.”

Samuel Joeckel, who taught at PBAU for 20 years, announced Wednesday in an Instagram post that the private Christian school in downtown West Palm Beach decided to terminate his contract early.

Joeckel claimed that a parent complained about his inclusion of racial justice in his English composition course.

When asked for an interview, Joeckel referred WFLX to his attorney, who declined an on-camera interview.

Instead, attorney Gabe Roberts emailed a brief statement: "The university did not renew his contract and ended his employment."

"They did this for a clear reason: my decision to teach and speak about racial justice," Joeckel wrote. "The timing of this is not a coincidence as we are dealing with an 'anti-woke' crusade from Governor (Ron) DeSantis and other far-right politicians and activists. PBA was clearly influenced by this toxic political ideology."

In a separate Instagram post last month, Joeckel claimed that his contract renewal was being reviewed to ensure he wasn't "indoctrinating" students.

Joeckel went on to say that he has "no choice but to pursue my legal options to fight back and show PBA, and other institutions, that they cannot get away with this."

West Palm Beach labor lawyer Art Schofield, who has no connections to the case, said the university may have the upper hand in a lawsuit.

"If this was a public institution, we'd have some First Amendment issues that would apply," Schofield said. "But in the private setting, in light of the 'at-will' doctrine, which I'm assuming applies here, there would be difficult legal recourse."

WFLX asked PBAU to explain why Joeckel’s contract was terminated.

"On the advice of legal counsel, the university has no comment," a spokesman for the university said in an email.

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