A Marine veteran diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has been suspended from school and labeled a possible threat after requesting to have a non-Muslim counselor, Campus Reform reports.
Jeremy Rawls served two tours in Iraq and is a rising senior at Mississippi College, a Baptist school with about 5,000 students. He says his academic career has been derailed since the college took punitive action against him in February for objecting to the counselor chosen for him by the school’s counseling and disability office.
The original counselor chosen for Rawls was a Muslim woman who wears traditional Muslim dress. Rawls objected to this assignment, however, arguing it would be bad for both himself and for the counselor.
“I didn’t want to traumatize her and it wasn’t a good environment to be talking about [my disabilities] with that specific person,” Rawls told Campus Reform. Rawls told The Daily Caller News Foundation in a separate interview he doesn’t have any problem interacting with Muslims in general, but that he was more sensitive about having to share the intimate details of his war-related disabilities with one. If possible, he said he preferred to meet with other Christians, and said that was one of the reasons he attended a Christian college in the first place.
Rawls says he first asked the school’s counseling office for a new counselor, and when they proved unresponsive he sent an email to some school officials repeating his request and explaining why it was important. As part of his explanation, Rawls described the suffering of many veterans with PTSD and mentioned several of his friends had even committed suicide from it (though Rawls did not describe suicidal thoughts of his own).
According to Rawls, school officials responded in a hostile manner. Instead of meeting his request for a change, Rawls says the school banned him from campus for two weeks and forced him to undergo a mental health evaluation.
The college’s email to Rawls informing him of his suspension said it had to exercise “due diligence in not only the protection of yourself, but also the campus community as a whole from potential harm or the threat there of.”
Rawls said it was “extremely offensive” to characterize him as a threat in such a manner. In addition to being suspended, Rawls also lost his work-study position at the school, and hasn’t been able to reclaim it even after the school allowed him back into classes on a provisional basis.
Rawls says he doesn’t think the college is acting maliciously, but is rather falling victim to stereotypes about veterans.
“The college itself is very supportive, there is just an ignorance toward veterans with PTSD and they are demonized so much by the media which led to confusion about what they were dealing with,” he said. “I still wish to go to MC and I know the vast majority is conservative and veteran-friendly, I guess this issue has slipped through the cracks.”
One of Rawls’ friends, however, was less charitable towards the school. Stephen Pitts, also a student at the school, told TheDCNF that Bill Townsend, the school’s vice president for advancement and legal counsel, had even made vaguely threatening comments regarding Rawls when Pitts warned him the school could face a media firestorm over its suspension.
“[Townsend] said, ‘This needs to go away if Jeremy wants this to end well for him,”‘ Pitts said.
The college has released a statement of its own defending itself and denying that Rawls was suspended for his request to change counselors. However, the school hasn’t described what actually caused the suspension, citing academic confidentiality laws.