HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. — A professor and six students at Northern Kentucky University have been charged with vandalizing an anti-abortion display on campus, a prosecutor said.
Professor Sally Jacobsen and six students face misdemeanor charges of criminal mischief and theft by unlawful taking, Campbell County Attorney Justin Verst said. Jacobsen, who teaches in the literature and language department, also faces a charge of criminal solicitation because she allegedly encouraged students to participate in the destruction, Verst said.
Four hundred crosses representing aborted fetuses were pulled from the ground and thrown in trash cans around campus on April 12. A sign explaining the temporary display, which had been approved by university officials as an expression of free speech, was also removed.
Jacobsen told The Kentucky Enquirer that she had "invited" students in her graduate-level British literature course to exercise free speech by destroying the display. She said she was offended by the simulated cemetery, which she considered intimidating to women who might be considering abortions.
Jacobsen was put on leave last week and will retire at the end of the semester.
Her attorney, Margo Grubbs of Fort Wright, said Jacobsen was sorry for the hurt she caused.
"She never wanted to harm her university or her students at all," Grubbs said.
Jacobsen would plead not guilty, Grubbs said, adding that the dismantling of the display didn't amount to a criminal act.
"The intent was just an expression of freedom of speech," Grubbs said. "She saw harm coming from it, and she was just expressing her attitude toward the harm."
The six students charged were Michelle Cruey, Katie Nelson, Heather Nelson, Stephanie Horton, Sara Keebler and Laura Caster. A court date was set for May 11.
NKU sophomore Katie Walker, president of the Right to Life group responsible for the display, said she felt that all those involved should face consequences.
"It wasn't just theft. It wasn't just vandalism. It was the violation of a right we hold sacred," Walker said. "That kind of behavior needs to have repercussions."
Kent Kelso, NKU's dean of students, said the university would wait until the court process was complete before deciding disciplinary action against the students.