It may seem like an over-achieving student going too far—suing her college and professor for a huge sum of money and a grade change. But graduate student Megan Thode may just have a case for her lawsuit. Northampton County Judge Emil Giordana agrees there’s enough evidence to pursue the lawsuit she filed.
An otherwise straight-A student, Thode wanted to become a licensed therapist. She took a required class at Lehigh University in Bethlehem for her desired degree from an instructor who bumped her down a full letter grade—preventing her from taking the next class up to receive her degree—for allegedly failing to participate in class.
This is where the case becomes eerily similar to the 1999 movie Election with Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick (A Type-A student played by Witherspoon will do anything to win the class presidency and her teacher played by Matthew Broderick uses his personal hatred toward her to make her lose).
Thode’s attorney, Richard Orloski, is arguing that the instructor, Amanda Eckhardt targeted Thode for being an outspoken advocate for gay marriage.
Eckhardt, who opposes gay marriage, testified that she stood by the grade and that Thode “failed to behave professionally, had outbursts in class, did not participate appropriately, was emotionally unstable and failed to heed a warning letter.”
Eckhardt also said on the record that she would never allow her personal views to influence her treatment of students. Giving Thode a total score of zero out of 25 points for class participation (when she attended every class and participated) is what is contradicting her statement.
Thode’s father, a longtime finance professor at Lehigh University, testified on his daughter’s behalf and commented on the absurdity of the participation score.
“I have never heard of a case, not just at Lehigh, where a student achieved a zero in class participation where they attended and participated in every class,” he said.
Megan Thode ended up getting her master’s degree in human development. She is suing for $1.3 million in lost earnings she feels she could have earned as a licensed therapist, and a grade change from the class she took from Eckhardt.
It will be interesting to see how the ruling of this case plays out. Judge Emil Giordano will make her ruling after testimony concludes.