UNK professor with muscular dystrophy files suit under disabilities act - Omaha.com
Published Friday, January 24, 2014 at 1:00 am / Updated at 3:10 am
UNK professor with muscular dystrophy files suit under disabilities act

KEARNEY, Neb. — A longtime University of Nebraska at Kearney professor who has muscular dystrophy has sued the university and the NU Board of Regents, claiming they violated the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Beth A. Wiersma has filed lawsuits in U.S. District Court in Lincoln and Buffalo County District Court.

In the lawsuits, Wiersma accuses UNK and the regents of restricting her from her office and other parts of the UNK campus and of ultimately harassing her and pressuring her to resign as chairwoman of her department.

Wiersma is an associate professor of criminal justice and social work at UNK and is teaching three classes this semester.

Wiersma was hired in August 2001. In December 2001, she was diagnosed with polymyositis, and the diagnosis was revised to muscular dystrophy in 2007.

From August 2010 to July 2012, Wiersma was the interim chairwoman of UNK’s criminal justice department and later she became its chairwoman. In spring 2012, Wiersma applied to become chairwoman for a five-year term.

The lawsuit alleges that John La Duke, dean of the College of Natural and Social Sciences, asked Wiersma’s colleagues about her health. However, Wiersma says, university officials had been aware of her disability before that.

The lawsuit also contends that beginning in 2008, the university delayed making accommodations for Wiersma including providing and enforcing handicapped parking, building an access ramp to Founders Hall, where her office is located; providing an adjustable chair to allow her to stand and sit; and making the restrooms in her building handicapped-accessible.

In December 2012, the suit says, Wiersma received a letter from Cheryl Bressington, UNK’s human resources director, restricting Wiersma from being in her office when no other department staff or faculty members were present. Bressington also allegedly required Wiersma to use her power chair when on campus.

However, the lawsuit claims that it wasn’t medically necessary for Wiersma to use a power chair and that the restriction would limit her ability to move freely, to stand up in classrooms and to use the restroom.

Because of the restrictions, Wiersma claims, she was forced to resign as department chairwoman.

UNK spokesperson Kelly Bartling declined to discuss the lawsuit or personnel issues, but said UNK maintains its dedication to serving all their constituents and does not discriminate.

No trial or hearing date has been set in either court.

Read more related stories
Coral Walker named Omaha police officer of the year
A recap of what got done — and what didn't — in the 2014 legislative session
'The war is not over,' Chambers says, but legislative session about is
Sarah Palin, Mike Lee coming to Nebraska for Ben Sasse rally
Prescription drug drop-off is April 26
Database: How much did Medicare pay your doctor?
Rather than doing $250K in repairs, owner who lives in lot behind 94-year-old house in Dundee razes it
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
PAC funded by Senate candidate Ben Sasse's great-uncle releases Shane Osborn attack ad
Teen killed at Gallagher Park was shot in head as he sat in SUV, friend who was wounded says
NB 30th Street lane closed
State Patrol, Omaha police conduct vehicle inspections
After all his bluster and bravado in the courtroom, Nikko Jenkins found guilty of 4 murders
Bernie Kanger formally promoted to Omaha fire chief
U.S. House incumbents have deeper pockets than their challengers
Nancy's Almanac, April 17, 2014: Trees save money
Ex-Iowan behind landmark free speech case recounts story in Bellevue
Gov. Heineman signs water bill; sponsor calls it 'landmark legislation'
New UNO center strengthens ties between campus, community
Senate candidate Shane Osborn to include anti-tax activist Norquist in telephone town hall
Kelly: New $24M UNO center embodies spirit of newlywed crash victim
High school slam poets don't just recite verses, 'they leave their hearts beating on the stage'
Attorney: Man accused of trying to open plane's door needs psychiatric evaluation
49-year-old sentenced to 40-50 years for attempted sex assault of child
Brothers looking for pot sentenced for violent home invasion
< >
COLUMNISTS »
Breaking Brad: How many MECA board members can we put in a luxury suite?
As a stunt at the Blue Man Group show, MECA board members are going to see how many people they can stuff into one luxury suite.
Kelly: Creighton's McDermotts put good faces on an Omaha tradition
A comical roast Wednesday night in Omaha brought fans of Creighton basketball laughter by the bucketful. This time it was McJokes, not McBuckets, that entertained the Bluejay crowd.
Kelly: New $24M UNO center embodies spirit of newlywed crash victim
Jessica Lutton Bedient was killed by a drunken driver at age 26 in 2010. Thursday, the widowed husband and other family members will gather with others at the University of Nebraska at Omaha to dedicate a permanent memorial to Jessica.
Breaking Brad: How much would you pay for a corn dog?
The Arizona Diamondbacks have a new concession item: a $25 corn dog. For that kind of money, it should be stuffed with Bitcoin.
Breaking Brad: Pothole repair crew gets stuck in a pothole
In East Lansing, Mich., a pothole repair crew got stuck inside a pothole. How did this not happen in Omaha?
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Dr. Welbes Natural Health Clinic
$129 for 2 LipoLaser Sessions with Additional Complimentary Services ($605 value)
Buy Now
PHOTO GALLERIES »
< >
SPOTLIGHT »
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
WORLD-HERALD ALERTS »
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for Omaha.com's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »