Pa. judge rejects Lehigh University student's lawsuit over C-plus grade in graduate school

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A judge in eastern Pennsylvania ruled Thursday against a former Lehigh University graduate student who sued to have a grade of C-plus changed to a B and was seeking $1.3 million in damages.

Northampton County Judge Emil Giordano made the ruling in the lawsuit filed by Megan Thode, a report by The Express-Times of Easton ( said.

Thode was seeking damages over the C-plus grade in a 2009 graduate-level therapist internship course she alleged was retaliation because she supports gay marriage. She said the grade is preventing her from becoming a licensed therapist. An expert estimated Thode would suffer $1.3 million in damages in earnings she would never make as a result over the course of her career.

Lehigh University lawyer Neil Hamburg argued that professors, not judges or juries, possess the expertise required to make academic decisions. "The grades are what the academics in the academic institutions say they are," Hamburg said.

Thode received the C-plus after she was given zero out of 25 points for participation. Participation in the therapy internship course required students to behave in a professional manner, give and receive feedback with other students and reflect on their own behaviors and perspectives.

Thode's attorney, Richard Orloski, argued that the zero is so rare that it would be appropriate for Giordano to change the grade. "My client stands alone in the history of Lehigh in getting a zero in class participation," he said.

The teacher, Amanda Eckhardt, testified she stood by the grade. She said Thode's behavior in class hurt her in the class participation component.


Information from: The (Easton, Pa.) Express-Times,