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Where Are Your Standards?, Fired Prof Asks

NEW ORLEANS (CN) - In a federal complaint that will come as no surprise to teachers and professors, an instructor claims ITT Technical Institute fired her for refusing to give passing grades to failing students. And she claims ITT ordered her to pass failing students so the school could continue to receive financial aid.

The complaint states: "In the 2010 academic quarter at ITT beginning in June, and lasting through September, Thomas taught the following courses: Strategies for Tech Professionals, Group Dynamics, and Portfolio Procedures. During this academic quarter, many students failed to attend class, complete assignments or pass tests. Due to these student performances, Thomas needed to fail and otherwise give low grades to those students. Thomas advised the academic dean Kenya Crocken Waugh and associate dean Dr. Renee Hall (the deans), that she intended to fail and give low grades to a number of students in your classes. The deans insisted to Ms. Thomas that she should permit her students to, inter alia, turn in assignments late in order to obtain grades higher than those grades the students actually earned. Ms. Thomas refused to change the grades. On September 8, 2010, Kenya Crochen Waugh contacted Ms. Thomas by telephone and terminated her employment because Ms. Thomas refused to change the grades."

Thomas claims that ITT gives failing students passing grades so the school and its students can continue to receive state and federal funding.

"Consumers finance the payment of tuition and other costs related to attending ITT's colleges through federally and state subsidized financial aid in the form of grants and loans," the complaint states.

"ITT was prohibited from terminating for Thomas's reporting of the illegal violations of Louisiana state law, disclosing the workplace acts or practice of illegally and fraudulent giving passing grades to students so they and ITT could receive financial aid and payments from the state and federal aid student programs. Thomas being told and ordered by Defendant ITT supervisors to pass her ITT students notwithstanding their failure to earn passing grades was in violation of state and federal law. Terminating Thomas for objecting and refusing to participate in the illegal grade changing scheme urged by the deans, when Thomas knew the deans would use the false records containing the unearned grades, is and was a clear violation of state and federal law.

"After her termination, ITT changed the official grades of several students taught by Thomas, from the failing grades given by Thomas to the students, for failing to timely complete assignments, unsuccessfully meeting attendance requirements, failing to complete homework, and failing to pass tests and related graded course work. Thomas created records in the ITT grade portal containing her students' final grades, marking failure for certain ITT students she taught. Thereafter, ITT supervisors changed the grades records of Thomas's ITT students to inflate those students' grade point average. Certifying these altered grade records as accurate, and using these false records to maintain eligibility for federal and state subsidized financial aid is a violation of state and federal law."

For ITT students to be eligible for federal tuition assistance, they must maintain at least a 2.50 grade point average.

Thomas seeks damages for lost pay, mental anguish, damage to reputation, costs, and an injunction. She is represented by Glenn McGovern of Metairie.

Public schoolteachers and college professors have complained for decades that many schools seem to treat grading as public relations rather than marks of education.

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