Student sues university after failing course twice
DALLAS TOWNSHIP - A nursing student is suing some Misericordia University officials after she failed to pass a course twice.
Jennifer Burbella of Stroudsburg said school officials failed to abide by federal law.
Burbella was enrolled at Misericordia University in Luzerne County, but her attorney said because of disabilities including anxiety, depression, and stress, she needed help.
Harry McGrath 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," he said.
According to the federal lawsuit, Burbella asked for help including extended time to complete exams, and communication with a professor during a test.
She said Misericordia officials did not follow through on those things, so she failed to pass the required course, not once, but twice.
At one point, 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 Newswatch 16, "We do not comment on matters of litigation," but others are talking about it.
"I think that it's very important that people get accommodations when they need them, so I think that's where my mind went first," said Michelle Berley of Shavertown.
"If you're going into a medical program that if you need that certain kind of time, my opinion is maybe it's not for you. I'm doing physical therapy here and I feel like I want to be the best and I want to know that I'm able to do what I need to do in the time frame to be done. That's how I feel about it," said Misericordia University student Kevin Collins.
Burbella's attorney 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.