The Morning Call reports that Megan Thode, a graduate student at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, claims that the C+ she was given in one of her classes caused her $1.3 million in damages. Thodes was in the College of Education pursing her master’s in counseling and human services. As part of the curriculum, Thode needed to obtain a B in her fieldwork class in order to take the next required fieldwork class. Instead, Thode received a C+ and was not able to move on to the next class. Thode’s filed her lawsuit in Northampton County with Judge Emil Glordano serving over the trial.
The Morning Call states that Lehigh University’s attorney Neil Hamburg and Michael Sacks claim:
…while Thode may have looked like a good student on paper, she was not ready to move on. They said Thode showed unprofessional behavior that included swearing in class and, on one occasion, having an outburst in which she began crying.”
The Morning Call states that Thode’s attorney Richard J. Orloski claims:
Orloski said she would have received that grade but for the zero in classroom participation that she was awarded by her teacher, Amanda Carr. Orloski charged that Carr and Nicholas Ladany — the then-director of the degree program — conspired to hold Thode back because they were unhappy that she’d complained after she and three other students were forced to find a supplemental internship partway through the semester.
Orloski also alleged that Carr was biased against Thode because Thode advocated for gay and lesbian rights — a claim Lehigh’s attorneys dismissed as baseless since Carr has a close family member who is a lesbian, and has counseled gay and lesbian people.”
The fact that Thode’s father is a professor at Lehigh Universtiy and Thode attended the university tuition free presents another wrinkle in Thode’s damages claim. The Morning Call states that Thode’s damages are based on the fact that:
Thode ended up graduating from Lehigh with a master’s degree in human development — which is also offered through the College of Education — and now works as a drug-and-alcohol counselor. The $1.3 million she is seeking represents the difference in her earning power over her career if she was instead a state-certified counselor, according to Orloski.”
It will be interesting to see how the court rules on this matter. There is no doubt that a finding in Thode’s favor and any compensatory award would likely spark additional lawsuits by students who believe they unfairly received poor grades and were thereby limited in pursuing the career they wanted.