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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Booted Students Sue|Their Law School

HOUSTON (CN) - Two students from Texas Southern University's Thurgood Marshall School of Law sued the school and a former professor in Federal Court, claiming their low grades were "arbitrary and capricious."

Jonathan Chan, 26, and Karla Ford, 27, say they were dismissed from the school after they were given Ds in Contracts II.

In their complaint, Chan and Ford say the grades given by visiting professor Shelley Smith were "not based upon their performance on the examinations, but in order to 'curve them out' of the law school."

They say the Ds lowered their grade point averages below the 2.0 limit imposed on first year law students to stay in the program.

"Plaintiffs were not even given an opportunity to review their final Contracts II examination for accuracy or determine whether their grades on that examination were given arbitrarily," the complaint states.

Chan and Ford claim the school "terminated professor Smith in order to prevent plaintiffs from gathering the necessary information to appeal their grades through the university's grade-change process." Months later, they say, their petitions for grade changes were denied due to "insufficient evidence."

Ford told the Houston Chronicle: "The evidence was in the university's hands. How can we be expected to produce something they have?"

Ford added: "When you believe that you are doing fairly well and you get a grade you feel you don't deserve, it's devastating. There is a lot of embarrassment and shame. It took a toll."

Chan told the newspaper: "Coming from an Asian family, failing is a tough thing to bring up. The only words I can think of are shameful and disgraceful."

Ford has bachelor's and master's degrees in administration of justice from TSU. Chan has a bachelor's degree in administration and marketing from the University of Houston.

Dannye R. Holley, dean of the law school, told the Chronicle that he was confident of the fairness of the school's academic program, particularly the first-year grading and uniform exam policies.

"We would never assign grades in a way designed to flunk out students, nor would we want to do that," he said.

Holley told the newspaper that final grades are determined by a formula in which instructors award points by ranking students according to class performance. That counts for 50 percent of the final grade, with a uniform, multiple-choice exam counting for the other half. He said the exams are evaluated by an outside contractor, who also calculates the final grade.

Chan and Ford seek reinstatement and damages of more than $75,000 for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress; negligent hiring, training and supervision; breach of contract and constitutional violations.

They are represented by Jason Bach, of Austin.

Follow @davejourno
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