Lawsuit: Hearing-Impaired Girl Was Expelled Because Of Disability

CHICAGO (CBS) — St. Scholastica Academy in the Rogers Park neighborhood is being sued by the parents of an expelled student with hearing difficulties.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Conway reports, the lawsuit by Aamed Pryor and Niya Jackson says their daughter enrolled in 2008 at the all-girls Roman Catholic high school, at 7416 N. Ridge Blvd., with hearing difficulties that require hearing aids in both ears.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Conway reports

The suit claims that requests were made for accommodations for their daughter, including preferential seating in her classes, and extra care and patience taken when explaining her lessons.

But the girl was expelled last December for what were termed disciplinary problems, all of which the lawsuit claims actually revolve around the limitations caused by her hearing impairment.

The girl received detention several times for “failure to listen,” “failure to respond to teacher request,” and “failure to clear response with teacher,” the suit said. All of these disciplinary infractions are directly related to the child’s impairment and her inability to hear and perceive things the way normal “unimpaired children” at school do, the suit alleged.

The suit claims the girl repeatedly tried to ask questions when she didn’t understand something in class , but instead of answering her questions, teachers gave her detention for being disrespectful and failing to listen and respond.

When the child tried to speak with the school principal about the issue, she was given more detentions for disturbing the principal, the suit said. She was told she was wrong to come to the principal, and ordered not to ask questions, according to the suit.

During a parent-teacher conference about the situation, the child’s parents were told that she could not ask questions, the suit said. Principal Colleen J. Brewer issued a letter to Jackson, Dec. 6, 2011, stating that her daughter was expelled from the school without any right of appeal, the suit said.

The suit said the child has undergone therapy to cope with depression because she does not understand why she was punished for being disabled.

The suit seeks the child’s immediate return to school in full standing, to expunge her disciplinary record, and all needed accommodations made to ensure her proper participation in her classes. Tutors should also be provided to help her catch up on missed work.

Susan Burritt, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Chicago, said she hadn’t seen the lawsuit and couldn’t comment. Loretta Namovic, president of Saint Scholastic Academy, was unavailable for comment Tuesday evening.

Principal Brewer and the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago were also named in the suit.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

  • Beverly

    This is not a public school that is required to make accommodations for a special-needs student. However if St. Scholastica offered to make accommodations when the child was enrolled, the Archdiocese may have a problem.

    • Margaret A-T

      Beverly, Most Public School do not handle very well if they do accommodation for example. Refuse to pay ASL interpreter. Or Oralism interpreter. Problem is lack of interpreter qualified or not enough interpreter to drive to very small town from big cities. That’s very difficult to find a excellent. if the parent do not want to send their deaf child or more than one deaf children to public instead of Deaf school. I grew up to approached with deaf teacher. Most public school often find difficult to find a deaf teacher.. they do not always willing to hire deaf teacher. Discrimination often difficult to dealing..! All of these are unfair! . Why not the parent send her to deaf school. All of teacher are child of adult deaf advocated and Deaf teacher also can sign language. What’s wrong with that?

      We (Deaf Community) upset that all of some of state closed due the lack of fund. Any of US do have a deaf school are closed because of C.I, Cochlear Implant often not always working for deaf children are not able finished high school in Public with out ASL about 65 percent in USA.. They failed to learn … Problem with terrible hearing teacher knew nothing about DEAF Culture or refused to sign.. force their speech are not always effectives … Read your homework in or Reseach your own research. I am DONE!

    • Margaret A-T

      Beverly, it is not working for everyone to go to private school. Often I heard lot of difficult to sit in only one deaf student. Impossible!

  • Me

    Sounds like the teacher and principal didn’t fully understand the accommodations St. Scholastica and the Diocese have a major PR problem on their hands over this one.

    Is the ‘old nun system’ back in place where one can’t talk unless asked a direct question?.

    • mark m

      she went there for three years with no proplem sounds more like she is acting out not the school three years no proplem now she is about seventeen and you know what that could be like

      • lex

        That is what she was doing…i go to this school and she had no problems hearing more like problems with calling people out of their name….. and getting into fights……. their is another girl who goes to this school with a hearing problem and she is not acting out.

  • west town dude

    sounds like a disability shakedown to me, with the parents going for the litigious lottery payday. So, if the kid can’t hear, how does the kid know that her questions were not answered??

    • You

      Do you know how to read? There’s an article up there that might answer your question. Give a try- don’t be afraid to sound out the tough words.

  • Roberta Waker

    There are laws that require schools to accommodate students with disabilities. A doctor may need to verify the child’s hearing impairment (sounds dumb but necessary); then they need to meet with the principal and teachers to work out a program to accommodate the student. This is the LAW, Federal law. If the school doesn’t abide by this law, they could be shut down because they ALL receive some federal funding. If their attorney specializes in school law, he would know this and what forms to file, etc.

  • Former Scholastica student!!!

    Since when does a school give detentions for a student asking questions when they don’t understand the work? Also WHEN does a student get a detention for going to a principal for help with the teachers who don’t listen to the student? WHAT is St. Scholastica’s problem???? This is a student TRYING to learn and you ignore her requests???? ay ay ay!!!!! UNbelievable!!!!

    • Skip sMith

      Based on what was listed as the reasons for the law suite, this does not sound like saint scholastica academy. This is not a public school where teachers are more concerned with salary, benefits, and pensions. The teachers at Scholastica accept lower salaries because they dedicated. Hearing from some current students, I understand that this young lady was very disruptive in class. They said that she would start yelling and screaming for no apparent reason and sometimes before class even started while walking into the room. Teachers gave her a lot of slack and tried to work with her but apparently there was something going on that had nothing to do with her hearing disability.

  • Judith Cogan Heikes, SSA Class of '57

    Given the comments above, and still awaiting a more complete report that gives the “other” side of the story, I submit that what is alledged does not reflect the the culture and values of St. Scholastica Academy as I have experienced it. I am an active alumna, and I know St. Scholastica faculty and administration goes out of its way to care for and about its students. As a mother of handicapped children, I have great empathy for the parents of those children. At the same time, students who become depressed, discouraged, and frustrated in a learning environment where they are not succeeding, can develop discipline issues. The faculty and administration at St. Scholastica should be spared the projections and summary judgments on “nuns” and Catholic educational instituions without knowing a fuller version of the facts. It is a sad day for everyone all around.


      I am also an SSA grad, more recently. The subject of the lawsuit actually came into the school my junior year and I can completely attest to what you are saying. She had MAJOR disciplinary issues. The fact that she was hearing impaired was never at any point the issue. The faculty and staff did nothing but try their best to help her. Their discipline of her was never disproportionate to the offense. I’d even go so far to say that they didn’t discipline her enough, because she NEVER learned.

    • Me

      My comment was more comedic than real. I have never attended nor sent my children to private school, so I do not truly know the internal working of one….just the stereotypes that abound regarding them.

      As to a depressed child… I can definitely relate to that. My oldest was having problems in school where she was starting to dread wanting to go to school. After multiple meetings with the school, and the flat refusal of the district to consider there might be a medical problem that hadn’t bee identified, we pulled her. We home schooled her for 4 years and sent her back in Jrhigh, with an IEP as a safety net for problems. She will happily graduate next year.

      I wish this girl all the best and really pray\hope that her folks do the right thing and not take the easy way out.

    • Nothing To See Here...

      While the current culture and values of SSA as described in the lawsuit might not be your experience, Judy, it has been our daughter’s. As another alumna, I am well aware of the Benedictine commitment to education, personal development and community service. The current administration does NOT exhibit those values, as much as they like to give lip service to them.

      True, private schools do not have to offer as many educational accommodations as public schools, but many do — Loyola Academy being one of them. But for a school that claims to live the Benedictine tenets to refuse to allow basic accommodations is hypocritical. Especially when they do not involve the use of aides or equipment. I suspect the student’s teachers might not have been made aware of her needs. Why? The plaintiff in this case is not a lone victim; a number of other girls have left SSA in their first or second year because of similar situations. My daughter also sought the very basic accommodations of sitting up front in class and asking questions — as recommended by her doctor. She was repeatedly denied those accommodations because this school of less than 150 girls “didn’t have the resources” to adjust her seating arrangement or allow her to ask questions. She was then penalized academically. Her teachers were surprised to learn later that her doctor had recommended any accommodations; the administration had never let them know. When confronted, administrators claimed they were afraid to “break confidentiality.” Huh?

      Unlike the plaintiff in this suit, we recognized that the current administration, sadly unlike former administrators, is inflexible, dogmatic and self-righteous, as well as painfully out of touch with current educational approach. We chose to transfer our child to another school, where she has since made the Dean’s List after receiving those same basic accommodations she was denied at SSA.

      When she left, SSA lost a paying customer and any future donations. We have also persuaded several potential paying students to look elsewhere simply because of the school’s inflexibility.While once a vibrant place, SSA cannot sustain its current huge dependence on alumnae giving for scholarships to cover tuition and operational costs. While sad, it is the school’s own doing; administrators continue to think they do things “the way we always have” in blatant disregard for changing needs and market conditions.

      The dynamic school I knew would never have let things get to this point. I feel sorry for the plaintiff; she seeks not remuneration but to change the school, not understanding that they do not wish to change.

      Also, to the supposed “recent grad” who “went to SSA:” obviously the school has slipped. If your instructors had taught you how to learn, you would know how to look up exactly how a hearing disability affects behavior — if you can’t hear properly, you can’t conform to a stated expectation. And if the teacher doesn’t even know you have a hearing problem…well, that’s a problem.

      • WENT TO SSA

        I’m not a “supposed” grad, I am one. And as for everything you have said, I am extremely sorry that your daughter was not taken care of in the way she needed to be. But that was YOUR daughter’s experience. The subject of this lawsuit was at no point discriminated against by her teachers or by faculty in the years that I went to school with her. It was common knowledge that she was hearing impaired and at no point was it ever an issue. The only issue was her attitude and her behavior.

      • WENT TO SSA

        Being hearing impaired doesn’t cause someone to yell at and cuss out a teacher in class. Being hearing impaired doesn’t cause someone to punch other girls and constantly start up fights. Being hearing impaired doesn’t cause someone to harass another student because she is openly gay. SSA expelled this girl because she was BAD. Not because she was deaf. One would not know the reality of this case unless they had to endure it, as myself and so many other young women did.

      • WENT TO SSA

        This is, of course, not to say that SSA is in any way perfect. I agree, the current administration came off as extremely self-righteous while I was there, and it no doubt continues to this day. There were MANY situations in my four years there that could have been handled better. It simply has nothing to do with this child’s behavioral issues. You can’t blame faculty for student behavior. That blame goes to the parents.

  • Judith Cogan Heikes, SSA Class of '57

    I certainly regret your daughter’s experience, even as I do not deny it. I maintain that we have not heard the other side of the story.

  • Vickie

    My daughter graduated from SSA recently and told me that this particular student was always a discipline problem and did not seem to be treated differently or unfairly from any other students. During my daughter’s time at SSA she was disciplined fairly. The rules at SSA are very clear. I was satisfied with her education at SSA.


      I believe any student who attended SSA in the past four years would say the exact same thing your daughter said, including myself.

      • Nothing To See Here...

        Clearly, “WENT TO SSA,” you buy into the “blame the victim” stance that many adopt to rationalize their own behavior. You have no actual knowledge whether this student was discriminated against, as you were a student, not a teacher or administrator setting policy and interacting with her as such. You can only know what you were told; this is called “hearsay.” You are also not a therapist, psychologist, social worker, educator, audiologist or physician, because if you were, you would know that a hearing disability can indeed be the root cause of each behavior you mentioned. People don’t start out as “BAD.” But constant frustration can certainly spark acting out, and if the cause of the frustration is not appropriately addressed, situations get volatile.

        And your belief that “any student who attended SSA” supports this administration’s stance would be incorrect. My daughter has been conversing with many former classmates, and this student has broad support.

      • WENT TO SSA

        I’m not blaming a victim because she was no victim. And I’m not speaking from hearsay. SSA is a very small school. I’m speaking from actual firsthand experience. And this “broad support” you speak of probably consists mostly of this girl’s friends, who will back her up whether she is wrong or not. The support of a bunch of likeminded children does not impress.

      • west town dude

        ah. beginning to sound more and more like my “lawsuit lottery” ia a reality. one of the real problems here is the stupid legal system that allows cases to be filed and litigated without penalties for frivolous and groundless litigation. imho, the penalties should also go against the lawyer who files such a case.

  • Barbara Paulus

    Based on what I know about this situation, this girl had MAJOR disciplinary issues and her expulsion had nothing to do with her hearing impairment. In fact, she was not expelled and is being home-schooled and comes to SSA to take her tests and will graduate with her class.

  • Judith Cogan Heikes, SSA Class of '57

    While we are focussed on the allegations in a lawsut between two “sides”, it might be good to keep in mind that a school is an organic community with the student body having full and entitled membership. In this case, it is good to bear in mind that the issues were lived out in that community, and were not solel y located in the relationship between an individual student and the faculty and administration. Disrruptive behavior, for whatever reason, impacts the “student” part of the scholastic community. Students have a claim on the peace and order of their learning environment, and it is the duty and responsibility of the school administration to ensure that peace and order. A deeper look might reveal that this is exactly what was done.

  • Another Recent SSA Grad

    So, Barbara, your daughter, who is an SSA employee, discusses students’ disciplinary issues with you? Really? That’s pretty unprofessional. I wonder how parents and students would feel about that kind of confidentiality being broken?

    It’s no surprise, though; it’s about time they got sued for messing up. I went to SSA too, and I know all the players, and all you people defending this place live somewhere called Denial. I saw so much stupid stuff when I was there, I couldn’t wait to leave. The school is dying in pieces because the people who run it are a bunch of bungling morons who can’t hang on to talented teachers. My class was tiny, and they’re getting smaller every year. All the defensive posts in the world won’t help that. Keep telling yourselves it’s a great place. I suppose it’s what gets you through the day.

  • Mom of a deaf child

    To everyone that keep stating that the student was a “disciplinary” problem, get real! Do you know how frustrating it is to have a hearing loss and not understanding what is going on around you. Can you imagine your frustration level? Wouldn’t you be a “problem” as well? The school accepted the student knowing her disability, then they should provide the proper accommodations. This student was not given a fair shake- despite what others may say. She was frustrated and probably confused- you would be too if you were placed in this lose-lose situation. The student deserves better.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Daily Weather Reports Delivered To You!SIGN UP NOW: Get daily weather reports every morning from meteorologist Steve Baskerville!
CBS Sports Radio RoundupGet your latest sports talk from across the country.

Listen Live