While in school, we all received grades that we believed to be unfair or unwarranted. One graduate of Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, has taken her bad grade to court. She is suing the university over a “C+” grade. In the lawsuit, the student claims that if not for a zero she was given in participation for a fieldwork class in 2009, she would have gotten a “B.” That grade would have allegedly allowed the student to move on toward finishing her master’s in counseling and human services. The student claims the one bad grade prevented her from attaining her dream to become a licensed professional counselor. Now she is suing the university for $1.3 million, according to an article in The Morning Call.
Was the Grade Given for Unprofessional Behavior or in Retaliation of Student’s Activism?
According to an article in The Morning Call, the student claims she received the low grade because the teacher and the then-director of the degree program conspired to hold her back. The student allegedly claims they were unhappy she had complained after being forced to find a supplemental internship partway through the semester. The student also claims the teacher was biased against her (the student’s) activism for gay and lesbian rights.
Attorneys for the university argue the grade was given to the student in an effort to help her address the skills she needed to be a licensed professional counselor. It’s stated in the complaint that the student expressed unprofessional behavior during class, including outbursts of cursing and crying.
The student ended up graduating from Lehigh University with a master’s degree in human development. She now works as a drug and alcohol counselor, according to The Morning Call. The $1.3 million she is seeking represents the alleged difference in her earnings over her career if she was instead a state-certified counselor.
Can a Judge Change a Grade?
The judge in this case questions whether he has the legal authority to actually change a grade received by a student. He has looked at cases nationally and has been unable to find one in which a judge had done so. The student’s attorney believes the judge has a wide enough latitude to impose “equitable remedies,” according to The Morning Call.
From our experience with such matters, the courts are extremely reluctant to become involved in such academic matters. Absent convincing evidence of discrimination, it is doubtful the courts will decide in the student’s favor.
Legal Ramifications of this Case.
According to an article on Huffington Post, there have been a number of students who have sued their alma maters in grading conflicts. For example, two former Texas Southern University law students filed a lawsuit in 2012 against the university’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law because they received “Ds.” The bad grades led to their dismissal for not maintaining 2.0 GPAs and put a stop to their pursuit of becoming attorneys.
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What do you think about this case? Do you think the judiciary should be injecting itself into the academic process? How do you think this lawsuit will end? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.
Yates, Riley. “Judge decides quickly after request to dismiss Lehigh lawsuit over C+ grade.” The Morning Call. (February 13, 2013). From: http://articles.mcall.com/2013-02-13/news/mc-lehigh-university-student-sues-over-grade-0213-20130213_1_carr-and-nicholas-ladany-zero-in-classroom-participation-daughter-of-lehigh-finance
Kingkade, Tyler. “Megan Thode, Lehigh University Grad, Files $1.3 Million Lawsuit Over C+ Grade.” HuffingtonPost. (February 13, 2013). From: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/13/megan-thode-lehigh-university-lawsuit_n_2671739.html?view=print&comm_ref=false
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
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