Yoder v. University of Louisville, 051513 FED6, 12-5354

Docket Nº:12-5354
Opinion Judge:HELENE N. WHITE, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:NINA YODER, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE; ERMALYNN KIEHL, in her official and individual capacity; MARCIA HERN, in her official and individual capacity, Defendants-Appellees.
Judge Panel:Before: WHITE and DONALD, Circuit Judges; and VARLAN, Chief District Judge.
Case Date:May 15, 2013
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

NINA YODER, Plaintiff-Appellant,


UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE; ERMALYNN KIEHL, in her official and individual capacity; MARCIA HERN, in her official and individual capacity, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 12-5354

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

May 15, 2013



Before: WHITE and DONALD, Circuit Judges; and VARLAN, Chief District Judge. [*]

HELENE N. WHITE, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff-Appellant Nina Yoder, a former student at the University of Louisville's School of Nursing ("the SON"), appeals the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants-Appellees University of Louisville (the "University") and University employees Ermalynn Kiehl and Marcia Hern (collectively, "Defendants") in this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action alleging that Defendants violated Yoder's First Amendment right to free speech and Fourteenth Amendment right to due process by dismissing her from the SON for a blog post on her MySpace.com page (the "Blog") that discussed various aspects of a birth she witnessed as part of the SON's childbearing clinical program. Because we conclude that Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity and that the SON's policies are neither overbroad nor vague, we AFFIRM the district court's grant of summary judgment.


In January 2007, Yoder enrolled in an undergraduate nursing program at the SON. In September 2008, as part of her transition to the upper-division courses, Yoder signed an Honor Code pledge ("Honor Code") that stated:

I join my fellow students today to pledge my commitment to the highest ideal and academic standards of my education at the University of Louisville School of Nursing.

I recognize I am entering a profession in which I have responsibility for the lives of others. With that responsibility comes accountability for my actions.

Therefore, as a representative of the School of Nursing, I pledge to adhere to the highest standards of honesty, integrity, accountability, confidentiality, and professionalism, in all my written work, spoken words, actions and interactions with patients, families, peers and faculty.

I pledge to work together with my peers and to support one another in the pursuit of excellence in our nursing education and to report unethical behavior.

I will work to safeguard the health and welfare of clients who have placed their trust in me and will advocate for the client's best interest.

I recognize that these responsibilities do not end with graduation, but are a lifelong endeavor.

As part of her studies at the SON, Yoder took a childbearing clinical course, which required that she follow a pregnant patient through the birthing process. In January 2009, in conjunction with the course, Yoder signed a Confidentiality Agreement ("Confidentiality Agreement"):

I __ do hereby agree to consider confidential any and all information entrusted to me throughout my clinical rotations while a student at the University of Louisville School of Nursing. This includes medical, financial, personal, and employment related information. I realize that information shared with others could bring harm to clients. Further I understand that a proven violation of confidentiality may be cause for immediate termination of access to further data and is grounds for immediate dismissal from the School of Nursing.

When Yoder identified a pregnant patient (the "Patient") to follow, both Yoder and the Patient signed a Consent Form ("Consent Form"), which provided in pertinent part:

Any information shared with the named nursing student will be used by that student only for written/oral assignments. My name and my family's name will not be used in any written or oral presentation by the named student. I understand that information regarding my pregnancy and my health care will be presented in written or oral form to the student's instructor only.

On February 2, 2009, Yoder posted a blog entry on her personal MySpace.com1 webpage entitled, "How I witnessed the Miracle of Life." The Blog stated in full:

As part of my mother-baby clinical (99% of the time clinicals are a waste of my time) I was assigned to find a pregnant mother and follow her around. I didn't look far. If you have ever worked a 12-hour shift in the hospital, you'd know that 50% of females there are at various stages of pregnancy. People say that there's something in the water. I say it's the shift - basically, she works 3 days and has 4 days to do everything else, including getting knocked up. That's how I got surprised with my own Creep - I was working nights in the ER. Never thought I'd have one, but there ya go. If your wife is infertile, send her to work at the hospital, she'll come back with triplets.

Anyway, I found my mom fairly easy - I just came to work and confronted one of the ladies. Good thing that it was her third pregnancy - and she had no problem with me being stuck to her like a tick to an ass, so I cordially invited myself to observe the glorious moment of The Popping.

Now, let's bust some myths.

1."Pregnant women are beautiful"

No. Hell - no.

Beautiful pregnant women are beautiful, or more like, only slightly distorted with the belly (as was the case with my "mom"). Otherwise, pregnancy makes an ok-looking woman ugly, and an ugly woman - fucking horrifying.

2."You're all glowing"

Oh really? Is that all the sweat from having to lug 35 extra lbs?

3."Babies are God's little miracles"

I gotta admit, there is something freakishly fascinating with the fact that one bunch of coiled protein grows a tail, forms an army, and attacks another bunch of coiled protein (which gets released by signals from a whole lot of proteins and waits patiently in a soft bed of all sorts of other proteins), then 23 + 23 becomes 46, immediately gets determined whether it's an XX or XY, or XXY or XYY, or some retarded XXXY . . . anyway, it's an amazing process. But IMHO [in my humble opinion] these 'miracles' are demons sent to us from hell to torture us for the whole eternity.

4."Children are such joy!"

Someone referred to having kids as like being pecked to death by chickens. I'll say that it's more like being ripped apart by rabid monkeys.

Last Friday I armed myself with a camera, and journeyed to the assigned hospital, where I met my wonderful lady, getting ready to pop. Since it was her third kid, everyone expected her to shoot it out within 30 minutes. She was already getting induced by elephantine dose of Oxytocin (Mmmm, Oxytocin!) I took my camera, put it on "Rec" and assumed the position.

45 minutes later, no baby.

1 hour 30 minutes later, no baby.

The anesthesiologist comes in and sets up my girl with an epidural. Having it done is one thing; watching someone else getting it done is another. The doc took out this teeny needle first and numbed her up. Then she took out this huge-ass 10 inch needle and jammed it into her spine!

I was watching the whole thing, with my face changing expressions like Louis De Funès'. But I guess everything went fine, because my 'mom' was back into position in no time, waiting for the Creep to show up.

3hours later, no baby.

I'm looking at the mother with sheer disdain, she looks at me with sheer anger, but still - no baby.

I've got to go to work this evening, and I'm starting to cuss. I haven't slept in 36 hours, so I went to my car, got my blanket, kicked the nervous spouse out of the recliner, and went to sleep.

4 hours later she starts to throw up. I jump up, and turn my camera on again, assuming the position of a greyhound, right in between her legs.

. . . no baby.




My eyes are starting to feel like they're filled with sand, and my heart is starting to palpitate. The momma is throwing up, the daddy's stomach is growling and he's starting to bitch like a 14-year-old school girl in the mall.

8hours later, the nurse comes in, checks the momma, and says, "ok, we're ready to push".

FINALLY!!! I turn my camera on again. Two more nurses, and a woman doctor come in. They put my momma into a position of American Eagle, prop her up with pillows, and shine bright light at the cooch.

The momma's family is sitting in the corner, shaking all over, with the two younger brothers of the baby, the in-laws, and the bitching spouse. At last my girl gave one big push, and immediately out came a wrinkly bluish creature, all Picasso-like and weird, ugly as hell, covered in god knows what, screeching and waving its tentacles in the air.

15 minutes later it turned into a cute pink itty bitty little baby girl. Mom was forgotten, the whole squacking family surrounded the new Creep; she was crowned with a pink cap, wrapped into a blanket and finally shut up with a teat.

I came to work, overwhelmed with emotions and new knowledge and experience. I sat down, looked around and once again proved that women are FREAKING STUPID and don't learn from their past mistakes.

I said: "I want another baby!!"

The End.

In late February 2009, Glenda Adams, the childbearing clinical course instructor learned about Yoder's Blog from another SON student, and informed Kiehl, the Associate Dean of the Undergraduate Programs at the University. Kiehl met with Hern, the Dean of the SON, to discuss the Blog, and they agreed that Yoder should be dismissed from the SON for violating "the [H]onor [C]ode and the standards of the profession and a [C]onfidentiality [A]greement."

Kiehl asked Adams to contact Yoder and request that they meet the following morning, February 27, 2009. When Yoder arrived at what she thought would be a meeting with Adams, she instead found Kiehl, a physician who provides psychological support to students, and two law enforcement officers. Kiehl showed Yoder...

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