Due process in cases involving student discipline differs from due process requirements involving the assessment of academic performance
2015 NY Slip Op 02775, Appellate Division, Second Department
Shortly before graduation a student [Student] in the nursing program at a Community College (College) was dismissed from the program for alleged academic deficiency. The student was told that she would receive a failing grade in a course and was given the option instead to withdraw from that course and repeat it.
Student declined to withdraw from the course and was dismissed from the program. She sued the College, challenging her dismissal and also sought damages for, among other things, breach of contract and violation of her right to due process.
Supreme Court denied Student’s petition, dismissed the proceeding and Student appealed.
The Appellate Division sustained the Supreme Court ruling explaining that unlike disciplinary action taken against a student, an institution’s assessments of a student's academic performance, whether in the form of particular grades received or measures taken because a student has been judged to be scholastically deficient, necessarily involve academic determinations requiring the special expertise of educators. According, to preserve the integrity of the credentials conferred by educational institutions, the courts have long been reluctant to intervene in controversies involving purely academic determinations.
The court further explained that although determinations made by educational institutions concerning the academic performance of their students are not completely beyond the scope of judicial review, "that review is limited to the question of whether the challenged determination was arbitrary and capricious, irrational, made in bad faith, or contrary to Constitution or statute."
In this case, said the court, the Student’s professors at the College “made a substantive evaluation of her academic capabilities, and found that her clinical skills were not sufficient to pass the course.” Further, there was no evidence in the record that the professors' evaluations were made in bad faith or were arbitrary and capricious or irrational, nor was there any evidence of a violation of the New York or United States Constitution, or of any statute.
As to Student’s claim that she was deprived of due process, the Appellate Division commented that the requirements of due process are less stringent when a student is dismissed for academic reasons than when a student is dismissed or suspended for disciplinary reasons. The court found that with respect to academic evaluations, Student was not entitled to a formal hearing, and the procedure utilized by the College was adequate.
The decision is posted on the Internet at: