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Student Seeks Court Intervention for Better Grade

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Formerly straight-A student, Megan Thode, sued her professor, Amanda Eckhardt, and Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA after she received only a C+ in Eckhardt’s therapy internship class in 2009. She claimed the low grade not only cost her a master’s degree in education and her dream of becoming a licensed therapist, but also allegedly $1.3 million in future lost earnings. However, her lawsuit really wasn’t about the money—she just wanted a B in Eckhard’s class.

As an adjunct professor at a different college, Northampton County Court Judge Emil Giordano sympathized with Thode. Giordano did not understand how she was awarded zero points for class participation, despite the fact that she attended class and allegedly participated in every class. That “zero” knocked Thode down a full letter grade. Thode claimed she received the low grade because she was an outspoken advocate for gay marriage. Her attorney said the case came down to breach of contract and discrimination and that she was the only student in the university’s history to have been given a zero in participation.

However, Giordano said he could not change Thode's grade to a B, as she sought in her lawsuit, because there was simply no existing case law that allowed him to overturn a student’s grade. Thode’s attorney believed because the grade was so outlandish, it had opened the door for the Court to intervene on Thode’s behalf.

Eckhardt defended the grade, stating Thode did not participate appropriately and had emotional outbursts in class, despite having been given a warning letter concerning her behavior. Other professors and administrators also testified to having concerns about her behavior. Giordano determined that Thode did not prove the university based her C+ grade on anything other than her academics, so he could not change the grade.