Would-Be Nurses Say Ethics Mark Was Baseless

     PHOENIX (CN) – A group of 17 former nursing students claim that their community college gave them the boot after failing them for academic dishonesty without a fair review of the charges.
     The students say they were studying under the Maricopa District Nursing Program at Chandler-Gilbert Community College from Jan. 15, 2011, through May 13, 2011. As described in the lawsuit, the nursing program “consists of four ‘blocks.’ The 17 students were among 31 total students in Block 2 during Spring Semester 2011. The students were enrolled in and attending the nursing program in order to continue to Block 3 and then Block 4 and graduate with an associate of applied science degree in nursing.”
     Two days after taking their final exam on May 9, 2011, however, the students say that they received an “academic dishonesty” check mark, making them “ineligible to proceed with the nursing program.”
     Ten of the students “would otherwise have passed, but for the alleged academic dishonesty,” and the other seven students “challenge their final exam grades on grounds, among other reasons, that the tests and/or scores were incorrect, arbitrary and capricious,” according to the complaint in Maricopa County Superior Court.
     The students say they emailed staff, including their instructors Dianne Winslow and Rita Haman, then Director of Nursing Barbara Winckler, and incoming Director Jill Anderson, “to provide the basis for the alleged academic dishonesty.”
     But they were merely told to consult the Chandler-Gilbert Community College Catalog and Student Handbook 2010-11 and follow the grievance process “if they disagree with the academic dishonesty check mark in the Blackbook grade book,” according to the lawsuit.
     The students say they each requested a conference with Winslow, but Winslow canceled all but one.
     Winslow did meet with two students before the conferences, but she “refused to answer questions … as they inquired of the nature of the charges against them,” according to the complaint.
     She allegedly attended one of these meetings with “an unrelated individual whom the student did not know and who is not on the staff of the school and she left the door to the conference room open, thereby violating the students’ privacy.”
     On June 6, 2011, “some students were told the matter would proceed under the student conduct code and not the instructional grievance process,” subjecting them to “unnecessary delays, confusion, uncertainty and mixed signals on the part of the defendants’ key administrators,” according to the complaint. The students claim it became clear to them “that one hand did not know what the other was during and it appeared to be a David v. Goliath case.”
     Since the “Arizona State Nursing Board prohibits nursing students from missing two consecutive semesters of nursing school, the defendant’s unfair appeals policy and its regulations effectively caused the 17 nursing students to lose their academic standing and shatter their dreams and goals of becoming registered nurses,” according to the complaint.
     None of the students have been allowed back into the nursing program, and they face a two- or three-year waiting period before they must start their nursing studies anew, they say.
     Chandler-Gilbert also “failed to provide a comprehensive education foundation as evidenced by only half of the class passing the final exam,” according to the complaint.
     The lawsuit concludes with a claim that Winslow and Haman “harassed and intimidated” students by requiring them to “wear look-alike purple wrist rubber bracelets,” penalizing those who refused.
     Chandler-Gilbert Community College is part of the Maricopa County Community College District, the “largest community college district in the United States with 260,000 students and 10 colleges,” according to the complaint.
     Each student seeks $1.5 million in damages for negligence, defamation and breach of contract. They are represented by Richard Neuheisel of Tempe.

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