An educator in Colorado was accused of having COVID-19 and briefly banned from campus. She’s now suing and says the false accusation was malicious and that the school violated her due process rights by banning her from campus, even temporarily.
The College Fix reported that Celeste Archer, executive director of the National History Day in Colorado program at the University of Colorado-Denver, alleges in her lawsuit that campus administrators denied her the opportunity to prove the accusation wrong and, further, actually aided the person who falsely accused her in their efforts to “harass and intimidate her.” Archer, who has won multiple awards throughout her career, told the Fix she believes the accusation was done for a malicious reason and that she filed the lawsuit in part to determine who made the accusation.
“[T]he school, like the nameless and faceless Authority in Kafka’s novel ‘The Trial,’ didn’t make any effort to respect or even recognize Archer’s due process rights, before rushing to judgment and barring her from campus, effectively punishing her based on an unverified allegation,” the Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF), which represents Archer, said in a statement.
Archer says in her lawsuit that the ban from campus came just one week before “National History Day’s signature showcase of the year … for which 500 invitations had been mailed, and 23,000 e-mails had been circulated.”
In response to Archer’s lawsuit, CU Denver Public Relations Manager Sarah Erickson told the Fix that the school’s “No. 1 goal throughout the pandemic has been to keep our campus community safe. We followed our safety protocols and responded with good intent, as we would with any reported positive case of COVID-19 on campus.”
“In less than two hours, we sorted out any misunderstandings and invited the employee back to campus,” she added.
Will Trachman, Archer’s pro bono attorney with the MSLF, told the Fix that the educator’s lawsuit was about “more than just the number of hours she was excluded.”
Her ban from campus took place “a week before her signature event of the year,” Trachman told the outlet.
“[Archer’s exclusion from campus] implicated, obviously, the most critical aspects of her work and there are ongoing problems,” he added. “They still haven’t given us the name [of the person who reported Archer and] they still haven’t told us their change of policies.”
Trachman also said he understood why the university would protect the identity of the false accuser, but asked, “when everybody agrees ‘Hey, this was false, and it was intentionally false’ … why would you protect the identity in order to encourage other people to do the exact same thing?”
Archer told the Fix she learned of her ban when a supervisor called her to tell her about an email they received from the university claiming she had COVID. Archer said she had not seen the email at the time and that no one at the university had contacted her, even though at least five colleagues had already seen the email.
Archer says in her lawsuit that an email sent directly to her by the university gave her no “opportunity to challenge the report or notify the school that she was the subject of a harassment campaign, or privately discuss the fact that the report was part of a harassment campaign before it had been transmitted to her colleagues.”
Archer called the signatory on the university email, who told her they “had heard that someone said that I had tested positive and was showing symptoms for COVID and so I was barred from campus.”
Archer said she told the employee that this was all based on “hearsay and gossip.” She further told the Fix that she was not even in Colorado when the accuser alleged they had contact.
“There’s no way somebody could have had seen me or had contact with me. I was actually delivering three rescue animals to their new home in a different state,” Archer told the outlet.