“‘C+’ in Chemistry Leads To Lawsuit Against School District”

by Walter Olson on July 25, 2012

“A former Albany High student is suing the school district because of the grade his chemistry teacher, Peggy Carlock, gave him last year, in hopes of getting a court order for the district to change the grade to an A+.” [Steven Lau, Albany (Calif.) Patch]

{ 19 comments }

1 Gradivus 07.25.12 at 4:20 pm

In this case (as in most cases, actually), the details of the story are important. There are legitimate reasons for bringing a lawsuit, and if the plaintiff’s version of events is accurate, then this is probably one of them.

2 Gradivus 07.25.12 at 4:23 pm

(My apologies for the bad grammar; I revised the first half of the final sentence without revising the second half.)

3 ctrees 07.25.12 at 4:35 pm

And… having read the article, I agree with Gravidus. If the details presented are accurate, a lawsuit seems reasonable.

4 Richard Nieporent 07.25.12 at 6:19 pm

Which part of the lawsuit do you believe? Is it the following?

In the complaint, Bethards says “Carlock was aware, at all relevant times, that a ‘C+’ in chemistry would effectively destroy plaintiff Bowen Bethards’ chances of being accepted to either of his two colleges of choice, as well as his chances of getting a scholarship to attend to the programs of his choice.”

Do you really believe that a single C+ in a chemistry class will ruin his future? Do you think that if he got As and A+s in all of his other classes and an SAT score of 2200+, it will all be ignored because he once got a C+ in a class?

Or maybe you believe the following statement from his attorney:

“He’s an A student, and his dream for the last three years is to go to UCLA, and this teacher doesn’t have the right to take it away from him,” Horowitz said.

However, did you miss the following from the article?

According to his transcript, Bethards’ C+ in Carlock’s class was the only time during his two years at Albany High that he received a grade lower than a B.

So he wasn’t a straight A student after all. I guess there were other teacher’s at Albany HS besides Carlock who were also conspiring to ruin his future.

According to the complaint, the district changed Bethards’ grade to a B earlier this year, after the email correspondence between Stephenson and Bethards’ mother.

So even before the lawsuit his grade has already been raised to B. It would seem that the lawsuit is kind meaningless now, or maybe they are planning to sue to get the other Bs change to A+s.

5 ras 07.25.12 at 7:07 pm

I too agree that this is not the usual petulant lawsuit over bad grades and should go forward. It sounds more like a case of teacher who decided to punish a student for reasons as yet unknown to us. Let a jury hear the evidence and decide.

BTW, the claim is for “more than $10,000 in damages” but can we assume from that description that the order of magnitude is therefore not in, say, the millions? Or is any number just a legal placeholder for now?

6 Bumper 07.26.12 at 1:35 am

Ah, the sickly sweet smell of a sense of entitlement waifs over another California courtroom. The district had already raised his grade to a B, which probably was the cause of a 30 year teacher telling the district to take this job and shove it. Given that Babs just lives over on the coast, you would think that mom and the little prince would know something about the Streisand Effect. And what college or medical school would even consider wasting a spot on the Suehappies. There is a lot more to getting into the college of your dreams that your high school transcript.

If this really is his only C, you shut your mouth, and when you go for your interview a simple “the teacher and I didn’t connect,” and chances are given the teachers accomplishments the admission officer will know of the her and move on. Sue to get your way, not so much.

7 JB 07.26.12 at 2:04 am

Childish lawsuit brought by a child. The attorney ought to be embarrassed to associate his name with this kind of thing, but I suppose he lacked self-respect or thought the school district would cough up an easy settlement. These kinds of suits invariably get thrown out fairly quickly.

8 aaaa 07.26.12 at 3:18 am

@Richard Nieporent I think that he meant those part of the article that describe teacher – student interaction. There have been basically two factual statements:

1.) “The complaint states that, as of May 27, Bethards’ grade in chemistry was an A+ or, numerically, about 106 percent.

Bethards says he told Carlock he would miss class, and that his mother also informed the attendance office of the absence.

The plaintiffs say Bethards and Carlock agreed he would make up the missed lab May 31. But when Bethards arrived, he said Carlock told him he could not make up the lab and that “she was instead going to fail him.””

2.) “Bethards’ mother says she wrote to the school district in late June, and several times afterward, to request access to her son’s graded chemistry lab work and his final exam, but that access was never granted.”

You somehow picked up only motivational filler and ignored the complaint itself.

By the way, single C can seriously lower your chances to get into top school. Those positions are highly competitive and every small thing counts. C does not make it impossible, just much harder.

Why do you think kids and parents pressure so much on grades? It is not because grades would be irrelevant.

If you want such position, you have to squeeze advantage of every little thing. You pick up those extracurricular activities that sound good on application, not those you like. You go every single competition that would sound good and for every single grade. It is just the way it is.

9 Richard Nieporent 07.26.12 at 7:52 am

aaaa, it must be factual if it is written in the lawsuit, correct? No one ever embellishes the truth to make his case a little stronger. As to the fact that one C+ (not a C and now a B) can ruin one’s chances of getting into a top school (while UCLA is a good school, it is not Harvard, Yale or Princeton), it is just a load of crock. Universities do not simply calculate the grade point average and take only the top group of students. If you look at the students admitted into Ivy Schools you will see that only a percentage of the students are the 4.0s. Top schools look at many other factors such as his character (well I guess that he is a loser right there), his extracurricular activities, his SAT scores (of which we know nothing which is most telling) and his application essay. Also, you conveniently ignored the fact that he got at least one other B (and from the way the sentence was written probably more than one other B). If your understanding of how top schools admit students is correct, then his other Bs would clearly prevent him from getting in.

10 Mike 07.26.12 at 12:04 pm

My (very smart) friend wanted to be a dentist, often told me he had to get straight A’s to get into dental school. He got straight A’s and STILL wasnt accepted by any dental school in CA. Had to go out of state.

So one bad grade could be a big deal, but this lawsuit is the worst kind of joke. I suspect the “facts” in the complaint are fiction.

11 RT 07.26.12 at 1:20 pm

I can sympathize with the student. In college one course I finished with an overall average of 95, and scored perfect on the final exam, but was still given a B by the instructor. He didn’t like the fact that I hung around with the “wrong people” at the school. His claim was that he only gave an A to the top finishing student in that class (who in this case had a 98 average). I know that this was not the case as previous students that I spoke to all confirmed that they received A’s despite being in the class all at the same time.

I didn’t sue him though.

12 Ron Miller 07.26.12 at 1:36 pm

Richard, we are assuming for the sake of argument the lawsuit is correct. Otherwise, what is the point of talking about it? We can’t determine the facts in the case.

Assuming the facts are true, the questions are, as usual: (1) is this a viable lawsuit?, and (2) if so, should it have been filed. My answers are yes and I don’t know.

13 PLM 07.26.12 at 2:21 pm

I’m retired now, but when I was a law professor I used to hope that the courts would decide they had jurisdiction in this sort of case–that is, to determine what the grade of a student should be. If the courts did determine that they had jurisdiction, I would file a declaratory relief action every semester attaching all of my exams so that the court could decide what the proper grades would be. Law professors (unlike most other college professors) read their own exams and it is well nigh universal that it is the most tedious part of the job.

I realize that a teacher can give bad grades, sometimes because of incompetence and occasionally because of bad motives, but I don’t think the remedy lies in the court system.

I should add that in California, at least, the courts have universally rejected such suits, claiming lack of jurisdiction.

14 aaaa 07.26.12 at 3:08 pm

@Richard Nieporent No, just because it is written there is not necessary true. However, just because it is there does not make it a lie.

Both points are very concrete in terms of what happened and when it happened. Actually, those points are the two factual things in that article. If they are true, then the teacher was very unfair. Are you trying to say that teachers like this does not exist? Because I met some.

You just cited mandatory public relations lawyer talk to make the boy sound as entitled as possible and basically assumed that all concrete accusations are lie. It is not popularity contest, he can be the most entitled jerk in the world and still be right.

Yes, Ivy tend to take into account all kind of nonsense. However, grades are still very important in that decision.

15 Jim Collins 07.26.12 at 5:50 pm

Maybe I should consider a lawsuit against the college that I attended. English Lit teacher told me first day of class that I could get nothing higher than a -C because I was a Vet and he didn’t support the US going into Iraq in 2003.

Nahhh having to run into him again just isn’t worth it.

The thing is that I support this lawsuit. School Administrations have become too powerful. Too many times they get away with things like this, because they have no oversight. School boards tend to take the side of the Administration, leaving no recourse. In my opinion that is one of the things that a Court is for. The lawsuit is just the vehicle used to involve the Court.

16 Richard Nieporent 07.27.12 at 1:05 am

Of course grades are important aaaa, but they are not the only thing upon which admissions is based. A single C+ (which is now a B) would not prevent a student from getting into UCLA. No school, including Harvard, Yale and Princeton, requires that every student have a 4.0 GPA (and every student with a 4.0 GPA does not get admitted to those schools). If he only got one B (which of course was not the case) it would lower his GPA to 3.975 (quelle horreur)! And if he actually got some A+s, as his lawyer is demanding he get for this course, his GPA would be over 4.0.

On a side note, I am amused by all of the people who seem to support this lawsuit because they once had a teacher who was unfair to them. There are times when a lawsuit is necessary to right a wrong; however this is not one of those times. If you cannot put events into perspective and realize what is really important and what isn’t, you are going to go through life fighting with a lot of people.

17 Ron Miller 07.27.12 at 10:27 am

Not in and of itself, Richard. But maybe that C+ threw him over the edge and maybe the teacher is just stone nuts. I just don’t know.

I can tell you I would not be filing this lawsuit on behalf of my kids because, while they are young, we are already explaining to them that you are going to get screwed sometimes and what you need to do is “don’t get mad, don’t get even, get better.” (Irony of ironies: I stole this from Joe Paterno’s father) But should this kid be allowed to do it? I vote yes (at least I think I vote yes).

18 asg 07.27.12 at 6:54 pm

The comments on the original article suggest that this is not the first time this teacher has acted maliciously against a student.

19 Carol Herman 07.28.12 at 11:22 pm

First of all the “absence” was approved by the school because the student attended his younger sister’s adoption (in a courtroom).

By this student’s junior year the student transfered to another high school. And, gained all A grades.

There are peculiar circumstances spelled out in this lawsuit. And, it also seems the school district no longer has this chemistry teacher teaching anymore.

And, lots of cases, when lawyers begin to see the costs adding up, get settled. Even if the first offer is low ball and stupid.

While you may expect a jury trial, I actually expect a settlement.

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