Placenta photo gets Kansas nursing students expelled

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Four students who posed for photos with a human placenta have been kicked out of a suburban Kansas City nursing program after one of the pictures was posted on Facebook.

One of the students, Doyle Byrnes, has filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Kansas seeking to force Johnson County Community College to reinstate her before classes resume Jan. 19.

The Kansas City Star reported that Byrnes and several other students were attending a lab course at Olathe Medical Center in November when one of them asked a nursing instructor for permission to photograph the placenta so they could share the experience on Facebook.

The lawsuit against the college and several of its employees said that the nursing instructor responded, “Oh, you girls,” but didn’t tell them not to do it or that it could result in discipline.

Afterward, Byrnes posted a photo on the social networking site showing her smiling broadly, wearing a lab coat and surgical gloves and leaning over the placenta in a tray. Nothing in the photos identified the woman from whom the placenta came.

The photo was on Facebook for about three hours until the nursing instructor called Byrnes and told her to remove it. Byrnes asked if she was in trouble and the instructor replied she was not, the lawsuit says. Byrnes removed the photo immediately and has since closed her Facebook account.

Byrnes and the other three students who posed with the placenta were expelled the next day. The lawsuit didn’t fully identify the other students.

Jeanne Walsh, director of nursing at the college, criticized Byrnes in a letter that was included as an exhibit with the complaint.

“Your demeanor and lack of professional behavior surrounding this event was considered a disruption to the learning environment,” the letter said.

The defendants’ attorney, Thomas Hammond, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail sent Saturday night by The Associated Press.

Clifford Cohen, who represents Byrnes, argues that his client was deprived of due process and that nothing in the school’s code of conduct addresses photographs or social media. He said Byrnes’ actions were not disrespectful.

“They’re not giggly teenagers,” Cohen said of the four expelled students. “They all impress me as serious, career-minded women who are utterly stunned at what’s happened to them.”

Court documents say that Walsh had said she would support Byrnes if she sought readmission to the nursing school next fall. But Cohen said his client plans to move to another state in a few months and seek work there.

Cohen said his client’s career hangs in the balance.

“With this kind of black mark on her record, who knows whether she can enroll in another nursing school,” he said. “Would she be able to get a job?”

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