Mississippi College student vet with PTSD suspended, labeled threat after requesting to meet with non-Muslim counselor.
Marine veteran Jeremy Rawls served two combat tours in Iraq and after returning home was diagnosed with combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder. Trying to move past his illness and in an attempt to reclaim his life, the Marine veteran struggled to maintain his position as a rising senior at Mississippi College only to be suspended after requesting a non-Muslim counselor.
According to Campus Reform, Rawls alleged that his suspension came after he requested to meet with a different counselor in the school’s Office of Counseling and Disability Services. He was originally assigned to a female student intern who wore traditional Muslim dress during his initial visit to the office. After his request, administration allegedly labeled him as a threat to himself and other students.
“It’s not that I didn’t want to participate. 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 said.
Originally, Rawls visited the counseling office to complete and pick up paperwork he has to give his professors every semester disclosing his disability.
“Every semester I have to identify with the school as disabled and they give me letters to give to my professors,” Rawls said. “This semester I had a surgery at the beginning which caused some issues in getting some letters.”
Rawls said that his attempts to meet with staff members to discuss the school’s policy about switching counselors were repeatedly thwarted.
Since Campus Reform first reported the incident, new documentation has been released. While the details of the exchange between the intern and Rawls are still unclear, the college has released a statement regarding the allegations made by the veteran. In it, the school denied the allegations but would not share details about Rawls’ suspension “due to federal educational privacy regulations.”
An email sent to Rawls from the Student Intervention Team cited “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” as justification for the suspension.
“To have been a Marine and to tell us we’re a threat, that’s actually a compliment,” Rawls said. “But telling me I’m a threat to others was extremely offensive.”
However, Campus Reform reported that there are emails that showed willingness from the campus to fulfill Rawls request.
“I am so sorry that your encounter with the Muslim student doing her internship in the Counseling Center caused you so much grief,” Dr. Ron Howard, Vice President of Academic Affairs, wrote in one of the responding emails. “I trust that you are receiving counseling at the VA, but I assure you that MC wants to assist you in every way we reasonably can.”
Rawls has been informed of his right to request any relevant school records under the Family Educational and Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). He is in the process of procuring legal counsel for guidance on the matter.