Student sues university after twice failing to pass course

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DALLAS, Pa. -- A Pennsylvania nursing student is suing Misericordia University officials after she twice failed to pass a course.

Jennifer Burbella of Stroudsburg was enrolled at Misericordia University, but her attorney said because of disabilities including anxiety, depression, and stress, she needed help. Burbella claims school officials failed to abide by federal law, according to WNEP.

According to a federal lawsuit, Burbella asked for extended time to complete exams and communication with a professor during a test. She claims Misericordia officials did not follow through on those things, so she failed to pass the required course twice.

According to the lawsuit, Burbella tried to call her professor during the examination. When that professor did not answer, a witness saw Burbella "...on several occasions during the exam...breaking down and crying."

Misericordia University officials told WNEP, "We do not comment on matters of litigation," but others are talking about it.

McGrath, Burbella's attorney, specializes in education law, representing students, families, teachers, and administrators.

"She has some disabilities and under section 504 of The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1973, you can make certain accommodations, not only in educational setting, but in the workplace, et cetera,"McGrath said.

McGrath said his client's disabilities should not keep her from being a nurse.

"I think many people suffer from anxiety, depression, and those types of things who are doctors, lawyers, nurses," said McGrath.

According to the lawsuit, Burbella is seeking in excess of $75,000 in damages, but her attorney said what she wants more than anything is a chance to take the exam again.

"She's not looking for the university to ordain that she get this degree, she's looking for a fair opportunity, which the statute provides, to take the exam. If she fails it that's her own problem and she has to deal with it," said McGrath.

Burbella is no longer a student at Misericordia University.

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10 comments

  • Alice

    This is just stupid. I feel like she just wants easy money from it. She didn’t say any specific disability and everyone has anxiety or is depressed especially during final exams. And if she’s taken the course twice then why didn’t she say something the first time? I know that in my school you had a certain time that you needed to let the school know you needed accommodations.

  • Scott

    What an idiot. If she is that stressed and anxious over a test, I would hate to see her dealing with a crisis situation in a hospital setting. If she can’t handle it, I think she should start looking into new career choices. Wuss!

  • fromoj

    If she has a 504 she get the 504. If the services weren’t provided, she needs to self-advocate. If she did and no one responded, then this would be the next step.

  • John

    This is not all that uncommon. I used to handle the ADA requests for a national testing organization, no one would believe the strange requests for accommodations that we would receive. One individual wanted permission to write the answers on his skin, because that is how he has learned to take notes. I denied him. I had cases where individual with masters degrees, all of sudden developed “learning disabillities” after faiing a professional licensing exam thus they claimed they need more time.
    Mere test anxiety is not a basis for an accommodation

  • SmartA100

    Poor girl cannot manage the stress of college….what make her think she can handle helping patients…real life care of patients may be far more stressful then school work. She needs to reconsider the field she wants to go into….and get some real mental health care before she pursues anything….

  • Gene Schuldt

    If she had a documented 504 plan in place and her professor was notified of the 504 plan; she may have a legal case as a 504 plan is a legally binding document that must be followed by an educational institution to accommodate students with disabilities.
    However, if she just told her professor in the middle of the exam, “I have anxiety and need more time,” she has no legal standing.

  • Valyn

    If she was truly disabled under 504, then the professor is supposed to be notified of that at the beginning of the course and it is supposed to be documented. If she did not follow the correct procedure for establishing the existence of a disability and arranging the appropriate accommodations, that is her own fault.