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Pa. grad student sues, says C-plus cost her $1.3M

EASTON, Pa. (AP) — Talk about grade inflation.

Graduate student Megan Thode wasn't happy about the C-plus she received for one class, saying the mediocre grade kept her from getting her desired degree and becoming a licensed therapist — and, as a result, cost her $1.3 million in lost earnings.

Now Thode is suing her professor and Lehigh University in Bethlehem, claiming monetary damages and seeking a grade change.

A judge is hearing testimony in the case this week in Northampton County Court. Lehigh and the professor contend her lawsuit is without merit. Northampton County Judge Emil Giordana declined to dismiss the suit Wednesday, ruling that there was enough evidence for the suit to proceed, according to The (Easton) Express-Times (http://bit.ly/Ye2Aj1 ).

Thode took the class in the fall of 2009. Her instructor, Amanda Eckhardt, testified this week that she stood by the grade, saying Thode failed to behave professionally and thus earned zero out of 25 points in class participation, bumping her down a full letter grade.

"I ... believed she received the grade she earned," Eckhardt said.

The C-plus prevented Thode, an otherwise A student, from going on to the next class and advancing in her professional therapist studies, the newspaper reported. She wound up getting a master's degree in human development instead.

Her attorney, Richard Orloski, argued that Eckhardt targeted Thode because she is an outspoken advocate for gay marriage.

Eckhardt testified that while she believes marriage is between a man and a woman, she would never allow her personal views to influence her treatment of students. She said Thode had outbursts in class, did not participate appropriately, was emotionally unstable and failed to heed a warning letter.

Stephen Thode, the plaintiff's father and a longtime finance professor at Lehigh, testified on his daughter's behalf and said her participation score was highly irregular.

"I have never heard of a case, not just at Lehigh, where a student achieved a zero in class participation where they attended and participated in every class," he said.

Northampton County Judge Emil Giordano is presiding over the nonjury trial and is expected to rule on Thode's lawsuit after testimony concludes.

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Information from: The (Easton, Pa.) Express-Times, http://www.lehighvalleylive.com

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