Nursing Student Sues College After Failing Twice, Alleges School Didn’t Accommodate Anxiety Disability

So, a former nursing student sues a college in Pennsylvania; she didn’t pass the final after two attempts. According to a New York Daily News report, Jennifer Burbella filed a lawsuit against Misericordia University officials in Dallas Township for issuing her a failing grade for the second time. She alleges that the school discriminated against her because she suffers from a disability.

A federal complaint names several school administrators in a lawsuit filed in Middle District of Pennsylvania. Within the document, the ex-nursing student claims college officials willfully violated laws pertaining to the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1973 (or ADA) when they failed her after an examination.

According to Harry McGrath, Burbella’s attorney, who specializes in education law, his client suffers from several diabilities, including depression and anxiety. She sought treatment for conditions at the Counseling and Psychological Service Center back in 2011, according to suit papers.

“She has some disabilities and under section 504,” of the federal law, McGrath said, adding that, “you can make certain accommodations, not only in educational setting, but in the workplace, et cetera.”

Reporters spoke to several people on news that the nursing student sued the college when she fell short in receiving passing grades. Not surprisingly, the comments were mixed. Michelle Berley of Shavertown weighed in on the developing story.

“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.”

Without outwardly defending the school, Kevin Collins, who attends the college the nursing student is suing, took another approach. He believes a person studying to be part of a hands-on medical profession should be capable of performing at their best.

“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.”

McGrath said Burbella made several attempts to obtain assistance during exams and call her college professor, to no avail. He and his client blame her two failures on the school’s unwillingness to provide federally-mandated accommodations. The court documents mentions the “distraction-free environment” the school promises, but it failed to give the nursing student extended time to complete the exam.

Moreover, he believes his client is capable of being a nurse, and her disability should not bar from doing so. At least one witness said they observed the college nursing student “breaking down and crying” when teachers would not respond.

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

Although she is no longer enrolled at Misericordia, the nursing student’s lawsuit seeks $75,000 in damages from the college. But if she had it her way, she’d like to pick up where she left off and be given another chance to achieve a passing mark — by acknowledging her disability and remaining compliant with the law.

“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,” her lawyer said.

[Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images]