Campus Current

Past AACC student files discrimination lawsuit

Former+AACC+student+Keshea+Tyrell+filed+a+racial+and+disability+discrimination+lawsuit+against+the+college+at+Maryland%E2%80%99s+District+Court.+
Former AACC student Keshea Tyrell filed a racial and disability discrimination lawsuit against the college at Maryland’s District Court.

Former AACC student Keshea Tyrell filed a racial and disability discrimination lawsuit against the college at Maryland’s District Court.

Photo courtesy of lvglawfirm.com

Photo courtesy of lvglawfirm.com

Former AACC student Keshea Tyrell filed a racial and disability discrimination lawsuit against the college at Maryland’s District Court.

Roxanne Ready, Editor-in-Chief

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A former student of AACC’s Physician Assistant Certificate program sued the college on March 3 for racial and disability discrimination.

Keshea Tyrell claims in the lawsuit that AACC professors treated her unfairly and eventually dismissed her from the program because she is black and her professors wrongly believed her to be disabled.

The lawsuit, which Tyrell filed in the U.S. District Court for Maryland, requests that the court direct AACC to reinstate Tyrell into the program, pay for her court fees and grant her “other and further relief” as “her cause may warrant.”

“All she wants is her degree,” Ashley Bosche, one of Tyrell’s lawyers, told Campus Current. “She filed this lawsuit because she felt like she was left with no other option … to pursue her dreams.”

In the lawsuit, Tyrell says she has sickle cell anemia. This disease is most commonly found in the U.S. among people of African descent or who identify themselves as black, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

According to the lawsuit, professor Timothy Parker—the academic coordinator of the Physician Assistant Program—“prodded” Tyrell to tell him she has the disease after a lecture about the topic, and then shared that information with other faculty and staff members without her permission.

Shortly afterward, both Parker and Mary Jo Bondy, who was then the interim program director, counseled her to consider a different career because of her disease rather than complete the program, according the lawsuit.

In April 2017, Tyrell failed a test called the Objective Structured Clinical Examination, the lawsuit says.

According to the complaint, 16 of the 62 students who took the test failed it, but all except Tyrell—the only black student in the group—either retook the test and passed or completed a one-day course so they could continue in the program.

AACC told Tyrell she must retake the entire semester because she was on academic probation, but no one had previously informed her that she was, according to the lawsuit.

The complaint also alleges that not only was her probation because of an incorrectly keyed pathopharmacology exam—professors denied her appeal for correction of the grade, she claims—but 16 other students who were also on academic probation were allowed to proceed.

Tyrell’s lawsuit says she filed an official complaint of discrimination with Elizabeth Appel, the dean of the School of Health Sciences, in June. Appel forwarded the complaint to AACC’s compliance officer, but the document says Tyrell never heard any findings.

In July, Tyrell complained again, this time through a lawyer, and AACC’s lawyers responded with denial of the complaints and a threat to countersue, the lawsuit says.

In August, Tyrell retook and passed the OSCE, but professor Donny Ard, a lecturer in the physician assistant program, said in September that she had cheated, according to the legal document. Ard also brought up Tyrell’s previous discrimination complaint when making the claim, the lawsuit says.

AACC’s Academic Integrity Committee, a panel of faculty and students unrelated to the Physician Assistant Certificate program, found in October Tyrell had not cheated, the document says.

“I think that’s very telling because her other complaints kind of fell on deaf ears, and that’s because she was complaining within the [physician assistant] program,” Bosche told Campus Current.

AACC sent Tyrell a letter in December saying it was dismissing her from the program, the lawsuit says. The letter said she had failed one of her courses because of an incomplete assignment, according to the complaint.

But Tyrell said she submitted the work three hours after it was due, and a white student who also submitted her assignment after the deadline did not receive a failing grade, the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit says Tyrell appealed her dismissal to the Committee on Progression—of which Parker is a member—but it denied her appeal.

AACC must respond to the lawsuit by May 9, according to a court order.

Parker and representatives for AACC declined to comment on the case for this article.

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Past AACC student files discrimination lawsuit