The family of a man killed in last month's shootings in Aurora, Colorado believes that a Long Island professor should keep his job after making a bad joke about the incident to his students. Melisa Cowden, the mother of a student whose father was killed—and was in the classroom when Professor Gregory Sullivan made the joke—said in a statement obtained by the AP that they didn't want to see Sullivan or his family be damaged by a "single distasteful remark."

Professor Sullivan, who teaches at the United States Merchant Marine Academy, allegedly told his students shortly before he screened a film 11 days after the shootings, “If someone with orange hair appears in the corner of the room, run for the exit." Sullivan's superior, Dean Shashi Kumar, suspended Sullivan and initiated dismissal hearings, writing, “I find there is no lesser sanction to effectively address this misconduct."

“We are sad to see the public humiliation by the media and public reprimanding the professor at the U.S.M.M.A. is receiving for his distasteful joke,” Cowden said in the statement. The school is still investigating the comment made by the tenured professor.