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What can I do about a case of discrimination against minority students?

Wednesday May 16, 2012
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Dear Nancy,

Is it professional and legal to change a student's grade from pass to fail after three exams with the intention of making an RNís career unsuccessful? I am a third semester nursing student and feel some instructors prefer that minority students fail in the nursing program. We are abused verbally in clinical settings and grades are changed without explanation. Sadly, other instructors are aware of this and have supported these instructors for years. I have copies of grade changes, and the dean of nursing is ignorant of this conduct. I would like to stop this discrimination.


Nancy Brent replies:

Dear Ava,

It is best for you to contact a nurse attorney or attorney who works in education law and with students. If your allegations are true, this type of conduct cannot be condoned. When you consult with the attorney, you need to bring all documentation of this practice, as well as the names of other students who may have experienced the same type of discrimination. Take your student handbook, course syllabi and other documents governing grading as well.

It is interesting that the dean of nursing is not aware of this conduct. Are you certain this is the case? If it is true, how could he or she not see a pattern of this type of practice? Remember, this accusation against the dean is a serious one, as are the allegations against faculty. It is imperative that your allegations are fact based and supported by evidence.

Consulting with an attorney sooner than later would be best for you and perhaps for other students who are experiencing this.


Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.