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Eastern Virginia Medical School bullied student with ADHD for 2 years, lawsuit says
Virginian-Pilot - 8/8/2019
Aug. 8--Jennifer Chuck has been diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and a related learning disability that impacts her reading comprehension. To succeed in school, she's found she needs someone else to take notes for her along with other accommodations.
It worked in high school. It worked in college. It worked in grad school.
But when she started at Eastern Virginia Medical School in 2015, Chuck was told to take her own notes, according to court documents. Less than two years later, she'd washed out.
Now she claims the school violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Chuck, of Santa Clara, Calif., filed a lawsuit last week against EVMS and several of its faculty members. Among other things, the suit claims the school endeavored to "bully" her until she quit or messed up enough to give the school a reason to kick her out.
"In other words, EVMS erroneously regarded Plaintiff as too 'weak' for the program and wanted her gone," the lawsuit said.
Nicholas Simopoulos, Chuck's attorney, declined to comment on the lawsuit, as did a school spokesman.
The school, however, did issue a general statement indicating EVMS "takes its obligations to reasonably accommodate students under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act and other federal statutes and policies seriously."
"EVMS has an office that specifically handles and works with any students that have accommodation requests, including note takers," said Vincent Rhodes, the school's assistant vice president of marketing and communications.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Norfolk, seeks Chuck's reinstatement to EVMS as a full time medical student and the removal from her academic file of any and all "false and stigmatizing conclusions" reached about her by the school's staff. It also seeks the full repayment of everything Chuck paid not only to EVMS but also to the University of California Santa Cruz and Georgetown University while securing her Bachelor's and Master's degrees, plus compensation for the money she would have made as a doctor.
According to the lawsuit, Chuck struggled in school as a child -- often finding it difficult to read and learn new words.
In ninth grade, an evaluator recommended a note taker join Chuck during her classes. Her GPA subsequently rose from 2.5 to 3.8, the lawsuit said.
Chuck attended UC Santa Barbara after high school. With the help of a note taker there, she graduated in 2006 with a bachelor of science in microbiology with a GPA of 3.55, the lawsuit said.
After working in research for seven years, she enrolled at Georgetown University in 2014 hoping to eventually get into medical school and become a pediatrician. With the help of another note taker, Chuck graduated with a master's degree in physiology and biophysics, the lawsuit said.
From there, Chuck successfully pursued a spot at EVMS.
The lawsuit said the school's "Student Disability Officer" told Chuck she could use a note taker. Before classes started, however, two other school officials reversed that, denying her the accommodation. Ann Campbell, associate dean of Student Affairs, and Allison Knight, assistant dean and director of Academic Development in Student Affairs, also discouraged her from reapplying for the accommodation, the lawsuit said,
In her suit, Chuck noted that the Association of American Medical Colleges has deemed a dedicated note taker a reasonable accommodation and that faculty "pushback" was not appropriate.
The last-minute denial left Chuck feeling "discouraged, insecure and alone."
The decision forced Chuck "to engage in an all-consuming and makeshift effort to self-accommodate where EVMS had abandoned her." She tried to make friends and join study groups in the hopes of borrowing her classmates notes, and then started crashing other study groups without invitation when that proved insufficient.
In time, the lawsuit said, many of Chuck's classmates became tired of helping her and she became exhausted.
Chuck overslept for one exam in each of her first two semesters, drawing the wrath of her teachers and other school officials. They questioned her dedication to the medical profession and whether she had mental health problems.
She still passed, though.
During the first semester of her second year, Chuck again had trouble in class. School administrators urged her to take a leave of absence and seek counseling.
Chuck said she didn't need the break or counseling but did as she was asked to appease the administrators. After getting a clean bill of health, she returned to school only to find the curriculum had changed and she needed to take two summer classes -- one of which was accelerated, the lawsuit said.
Chuck was deemed tardy for another examination during her first full semester back, leading to more meetings. A board composed of various faculty members ultimately voted to dismiss her from the school. President Richard Homan agreed.
The dismissal was finalized Nov. 17, 2017.
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