Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Courts Grade Students' Rights

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Courts Grade Students' Rights

Article excerpt

SUSAN M. didn't like the grades she was getting at law school. So she did what any self-respecting, would-be lawyer would do: She took the school to court.

It should be said at the outset that Susan lost her case in New York's Court of Appeals - that state's highest judicial tribunal. So the student, at least for now, is out of school, out of tuition, and has dim prospects for a legal career.

Even if Susan's particular claim were unwarranted or even frivolous, there is a broader issue here, particularly in these days of burgeoning college tuitions.

Students, even those below the university level, have the same rights as other citizens. Among them is the guarantee of a fair hearing to determine whether the school's actions are arbitrary and unfair.

Teachers and professors have built-in leverage over students, since the grades they dole out can determine the success of an academic career and, in some instances, future professional livelihood. In some cases, professors have traded grades for sexual favors or other things. There is no evidence of this kind of blackmail, however, in this case.

The Court of Appeals, in adjudicating Susan's claim that she deserved another chance to make good in school said that, "Because her allegations are directed at the pedagogical evaluation of her test grades, a determination best left to educators rather than the courts, we conclude that her petition does not state a judicially cognizable claim."

Strip away the legal jargon and what the justices held was that Susan needed to solve her problem in the classroom, not the courtroom.

Susan was dismissed from the New York Law School in 1987 at the end of her second year because her grades fell below the required 2.0 (or "C") average. She sued for reinstatement and lost at the trial-court level. An appellate court, however, ordered the school to reevaluate her grade in one course. …

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