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Herrera v. Community College of Allegheny County

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

June 29, 2017



          Cathy Bissoon United States District Judge.

         On January 4, 2017, and in advance of a Preliminary Injunction Hearing, the Court issued the following Order granting Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment:

The Court has opted to decide Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 18) on the papers. Based on the Court's review of the parties' briefing and the record, summary judgment will be GRANTED for Defendant. An opinion will follow. The Court will not issue a Rule 58 Judgment closing the case until it issues its written opinion on the Motion for Summary Judgment. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff's Motion for a Preliminary Injunction (Doc. 6) is DENIED. Accordingly, the Preliminary Injunction Hearing set for 1/6/17 is CANCELED.

(Doc. 26). What follows is the Court's opinion analyzing Defendant's Motion for Judgment.

         I. MEMORANDUM

         Pending before the Court are Defendant Community College of Allegheny County (“Defendant” or “CCAC”)'s Motion for Summary Judgment, and Plaintiff Christopher Herrera (“Plaintiff”)'s Motion for a Preliminary Injunction. Plaintiff claims that Defendant discriminated against him on the basis of disability by refusing to allow him to participate in its remediation program after he failed to satisfy the school's academic requirements in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (“RA”) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Plaintiff asks the Court to reverse the denial of his academic appeal and order his reinstatement to the school's Physical Therapy Assistant program. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion for summary judgment will be granted, and Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction will be denied.


         Plaintiff contends that he suffers from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Plaintiff was first diagnosed with ADHD via a “computer test” conducted by Dr. Charles Bonner during his sophomore year of high school. (Doc. 20) at ¶ 19; (Doc. 23) at ¶ 19. At that time, Plaintiff was prescribed a 5 milligram dose of Adderall XR, which later increased to 30 milligrams several years ago. (Id.)

         Plaintiff enrolled in CCAC in August 2009. (Doc. 20) at ¶ 18; (Doc. 23) at ¶18. On or about December 30, 2013, Plaintiff applied for the Physical Therapist Assistant (“PTA”) Program, a program accredited through the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. (Doc. 20) at ¶¶ 11, 22; (Doc. 23) at ¶¶ 11, 22. Plaintiff was informed that he was not accepted into the PTA program because his “Total Admission Score (TAS) was lower than those of the applicants accepted into the PTA Program.” (Doc. 20) at ¶ 22; (Doc. 23) at ¶ 22. Plaintiff, however, requested that CCAC place his application “on hold” if a space opened up. (Doc. 20) at ¶ 23; (Doc. 23) at ¶ 23. By letter dated May 16, 2014, Plaintiff was advised that he was conditionally accepted into the PTA Program for the fall 2014 semester. (Id.) The May 16, 2014 letter included information regarding the process for requesting for accommodations for students with a disability. (Doc. 20) at ¶ 24; (Doc. 23) at ¶ 24.

         Plaintiff completed and signed a Student Contact Information Form on June 30, 2014. (Doc. 20) at ¶ 25; (Doc. 23) at ¶ 25. In it, he checked the “no” box to each of the following questions: “3. Do you wish to inform program faculty and your clinical/fieldwork supervisor(s) of any pertinent condition(s)which may present issues in class, lab or at the clinical/fieldwork site?”; “4. Have you made contact with CCAC/Boyce Campus “Supportive Services for Students with Disabilities?”; and “5. If you answered yes, to Item #4, do you require any appropriate and reasonable accommodation?” (Id.) Plaintiff listed, however, that he took the following medication: “Adderall XR, 30 milligrams.” (Doc. 20) at ¶ 26; (Doc. 23) at ¶ 26.

         On September 25, 2014, Plaintiff completed and signed the “PTA Program Student Participation Contract.” (Doc. 20) at ¶ 27; (Doc. 23) at ¶ 27. Plaintiff acknowledged that he reviewed the Physical Therapist Assistant Program Student Manual (Student Manual) on or before September 25, 2014. (Doc. 20) at ¶ 28; (Doc. 23) at ¶ 28. Section I of the Student Manual includes a PTA Program Comprehensive Examination Policy, PTA Program Progression Policy, PTA Program Remediation Process, and PTA Program Re-Application Process. (Doc. 20) at ¶ 29; (Doc. 23) at ¶ 29. The “PTA Program Comprehensive Examination Policy” states that a “passing score of 75% is required in order for the student to progress to the next semester of the PTA program.” (Doc. 20) at ¶ 30; (Doc. 23) at ¶ 30. The “PTA Program Comprehensive Examination Policy” further states that “[s]tudents who do not pass with a 75% or higher are required to meet with the PTA program faculty.” (Doc. 23) at ¶30. Finally, the “PTA Program Comprehensive Examination Policy” explains that students will not be permitted to progress if they do not meet minimal academic requirements that include: maintaining a 75% or better grade in all required courses; and achieving a 75% or better on the comprehensive exams. (Doc. 20) at ¶ 31; (Doc. 23) at ¶ 31. The “PTA Program Remediation Process” sets forth a five step procedure to be followed if “a student scores below the passing score on any test, assignment, or clinical.” (Doc. 20) at ¶ 32; (Doc. 23) at ¶ 32. The “PTA Program Re-Application Process” sets forth factors to be considered for students who re-apply and states that “[s]tudents may re-enter the PTA program once, and may repeat any major course only once.” (Doc. 20) at ¶ 33; (Doc. 23) at ¶ 33. The “PTA Program Re-Application Process” also requires that the student “successfully complete PTA course examination with an 85% or higher to demonstrate subject matter competency.” Section II of the Manual is entitled “Boyce Campus Allied Health Programs Policies & Guidelines.” (Doc. 20) at ¶ 34; (Doc. 23) at ¶ 35. In Section II, students are informed that a student achieving less than a letter grade of “C” in a required course may repeat the course, however, “if the course is a prerequisite to subsequent courses in the program of study, they must re-apply to the program.” (Doc. 20) at ¶ 35; (Doc. 23) at ¶36.

         Between 2010 and December 2014, Plaintiff saw psychiatrist Joel Diamond every three months to monitor the adverse or potential adverse effects of Adderall. (Doc. 20) at ¶36; (Doc. 23) at ¶ 37. At some point in 2014, Plaintiff contacted CCAC's “Supportive Services for Students with Disabilities” regarding his ADHD, and someone at that office advised him to provide the school with a letter from his physician and a Verification of Disability form. (Doc. 20) at ¶ 37; (Doc. 23) at¶ 38. On January 26, 2015, Plaintiff submitted a letter from Dr. Diamond, dated December 12, 2014, which stated, in relevant part, that: “Christopher is diagnosed with Attention deficit disorder (ADHD), due to this condition Christopher may need additional time or assistance with his schooling.” (Doc. 20) at ¶¶ 39, 44; (Doc. 23) at ¶¶ 40, 45. Plaintiff also submitted a Verification of Disability form, completed by Dr. Diamond, which indicated that Plaintiff was diagnosed “prior to being our patient, new to us in 2010.” (Doc. 20) at ¶ 40; (Doc. 23) at ¶ 41. In response to a question about symptoms, functioning, treatment, severity of the disorder and expected prognosis, Dr. Diamond stated that Plaintiff's “ADHD is well treated w/ medication.” (Doc. 20) at ¶ 41; (Doc. 23) at ¶ 42. In response to the remaining questions, Dr. Diamond identified no functional limitations or necessary accommodations. (Doc. 20) at ¶ 42; (Doc. 23) at ¶ 43.

         On February 3, 2015, Plaintiff received “Disability Certification for Faculty” forms from Supportive Services. (Doc. 20) at ¶ 46; (Doc. 23) at ¶ 47. To receive an accommodation, students must deliver these forms to the teaching faculty members who will provide the accommodation. (Doc. 20) at ¶ 47; (Doc. 23) at ¶ 48. Plaintiff submitted a form to his then-Professor and the Clinical Coordinator of Clinical Education in the PTA Program, Stephen W. Bannister, identifying the following accommodation: “EEX: Extended Time Exam.” (Doc. 20) at ¶¶10, 46; (Doc. 23) at ¶¶10, 47. Plaintiff testified that he was given time and a half as an extended test time at CCAC after he sought this accommodation.[1] (Doc. 20) at ¶ 49; (Doc. 23) at ¶ 50.

         On August 17, 2015, Plaintiff signed the Receipt of PTA 202 Course Outline and CCAC Student Handbook 2015-2016. (Doc. 20) at ¶ 56; (Doc. 23) at ¶ 56. The Receipt form signed by Plaintiff states, in relevant part, that “I understand that successful completion of PTA 202 requires that students must achieve a letter grade of “C” (75%) in PTA passing the Comprehensive Examination with a 75% or higher . . . If I do not achieve a letter grade of “C” (75%) or higher in PTA 202, I understand that I will be dismissed from the Physical Therapist Assistant Program…” (Doc. 20) at ¶ 57; (Doc. 23) at ¶ 57. On September 22, 2015, Plaintiff spoke with Dr. Bannister about his poor performance in the class. Thereafter, Plaintiff received a letter from Dr. Bannister listing a number of missing ...

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