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Jafar v. Kings College

June 30, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Judge Munley)


Presently before the Court for disposition is Defendant King's College's Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's employment discrimination complaint. This matter has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition. For the following reasons, we will grant the motion and dismiss this case.

I. Background*fn1

Plaintiff Huda Jafar is of Palestinian descent and ancestry. She was enrolled in the Physician Assistant Masters Program at Defendant King's College ("Kings") until June 16, 2003, when Kings dismissed her from the program.

The program consists of a classroom portion, a clinical portion, and a masters paper. The clinical portion consists of seven six week clinical rotations and a three and a half month preceptorship. (Pl Ex. 2, Frances Feudale Dep. 20.) To pass a rotation, students must achieve a grade point average (GPA) of no less than 3.0. (Feudale Dep. 20.) The rotation grade is calculated based on a number of grades within the rotation, including the grades on paperwork, the rotation paper, the take-home exam, an evaluation by the rotation preceptor, and the end of rotation exam. (Feudale Dep. 28-29.) Furthermore, the student's cumulative GPA at the end of the year must be at least 3.0 to graduate with a masters. (Feudale Dep. 20.)

The first time a student completes a rotation with a GPA of less than 3.0, she is placed on clinical alert. (Feudale Dep. 21.) The second time, she is placed on clinical probation. (Feudale Dep. 21.) The third time is grounds for dismissal. (Feudale Dep. 21.)

Generally, the first two times a student receives a rotation grade of less than 3.0, she need not re-take the rotation and is merely placed on clinical alert or probation. (Feudale Dep. 22.) In some cases where the student has mental or psychological problems, Kings may require that she repeat the rotation. (Feudale Dep. 22.) This option, called remediation, is allowed on an individual basis depending on the student's circumstances. (Feudale Dep. 45.) By school policy, if a student resubmits a paper for remediation, the maximum grade is 3.0. (Feudale Dep. 54.)

Jafar failed to achieve a 3.0 GPA in her first two rotations, and was placed on clinical alert and then academic probation. (Feudale Dep. 27.) She then achieved a 3.0 in rotations three, four, and five. (Feudale Dep. 27.)

In the fourth and five rotations Jafar received a 4.0 grade on her rotation papers. (Pl. Ex. 1, Barbara Sauls Dep. 83.) These papers were graded by Diana Easton, and Easton did not correct Jafar's formatting, referencing, or citations. (Pl. Ex. 4, Diane Easton Dep. 53.) Dr. Barbara Sauls graded her sixth rotation paper and gave her a 2.0. (Sauls Dep. 84.) Dr. Sauls reduced her grade because she made numerous formatting and citation errors, and explained that but for these errors she could have received an "A." (Sauls Dep. 102.) By failing to cite, Jafar did not attribute ideas or data to her sources, which Dr. Sauls equated to plagiarism. (Sauls Dep. 85-86.) Dr. Sauls was consistently strict with all students regarding format and citation errors, whereas Mrs. Easton was consistently lenient. (Feudale Dep. 60-61.) Thus, students would receive discrepancies in their grades depending on whether Dr. Sauls or Mrs. Easton was the grader. (Feudale Dep. 60.)

Because she received a 2.0 on the rotation paper, Jafar's overall GPA for rotation six was 2.64. Since she was on probation, her failure to achieve a 3.0 constituted grounds for dismissal. Instead of dismissing her, Dr. Frances A. Feudale, the Program Director,*fn2 wrote a letter to Jafar offering remediation for rotation six. (Pl. Ex. FF-1.) Therein, she explained that the paper format in rotation six was incorrect. (Pl. Ex. FF-1.) She noted that the same errors were present in her masters paper. (Pl. Ex. FF-1.) Dr. Feudale acknowledged that the school failed to notice her formatting problems earlier, but she assured Jafar that she "would not be penalized for our past errors." ( Pl. Ex. FF-1.) Dr. Feudale thereafter explained that Jafar had to re-submit the rotation paper, and then she could retake the end of rotation exam. (Pl. Ex. FF-1.) Dr. Feudale warned that the highest possible score on the resubmitted paper would be a 3.0, and she needed a minimum score of 54 on the remedial exam. (Pl. Ex. FF-1.)

Jafar, however, did not resubmit her rotation paper, but instead submitted her masters paper with corrections. (Feudale Dep. 79, 81-82.) Mrs. Easton advised Dr. Feudale that Jafar had apparently misunderstood the direction in the letter because she submitted the wrong revised paper. (Feudale Dep. 82.) Dr. Feudale did not give Jafar the opportunity to correct this misunderstanding because she believed her letter was clear. (Feudale Dep. 83.) The letter stated, "After you do this you can re-submit the rotation paper for re-grading." (PFF-1.) In addition, Jafar failed her end-of-rotation exam upon re-examination. (P-BLS-2.) She needed a 54, but scored only a 52. (P-BLS-2.) After Jafar failed to achieve a 3.0 GPA for rotation six following remediation, she was dismissed from the program.

II. Jurisdiction

The Court exercises jurisdiction over this dispute pursuant to its federal question jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. ยง 1331, because Plaintiff seeks ...

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