By Deborah Circelli, Staff Writer , Daytona Beach News-Journal 8/12/11
Two deaf Daytona State College students have filed a federal suit against the college, claiming they’ve been discriminated against by not being given the required services to achieve in classes.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Orlando on Wednesday, states the college denied “effective communication” such as sign language, auxiliary aides and services for Laura Koschuk, 40, of DeLand and Suzanne Bergman, 47, of Ormond Beach.
The suit claims the college violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and a section of the Rehabilitation Act which Daytona State is required to follow because the college is a public entity and receives federal funding.
The suit also names Keith Kennedy, in his role as director of student disability services, as a defendant.
At times during their classes, according to the suit, the college provided some interpreters, note-takers and devices. But other times the students were left without help after repeated requests or were offered people who were not trained or qualified and equipment that was not effective.
Bergman, who first started classes in 2008, reports having had problems since May 2009, and Koschuk since she enrolled last year during the summer semester.
“It’s extraordinarily rare for any school not to provide full-time sign language interpreters for its deaf students,” said Matthew W. Dietz of Miami, one of the attorneys representing the students along with lawyers from the National Association of the Deaf .
“It gives (the students) absolutely no opportunity to graduate and have success in school without being given instruction in their own language so they can understand it,” Dietz said.
Thomas LoBasso, Daytona State College vice president for enrollment and student development, said the college “provides reasonable accommodations to students according to the ADA guidelines and laws.” But LoBasso and new college President Carol Eaton, who started last week, had not seen the suit late Thursday.
“We will be looking into it,” Eaton said.
According to the suit, Koschuk was told there weren’t any interpreters available at various times in the past year. Budget constraints were given as a reason to Bergman in 2009.
Koschuk and Bergman, who are attending classes in the fall, want the court to order the college to provide qualified interpreters and note-takers to all deaf students. They also want closed captioning and transcripts provided in courses at times when videos are shown.
Bergman wants to be reinstated into the licensed practical nursing clinical course, which she failed, provided an interpreter and for the college to remove the failing grade from her transcript.
Bergman was told by the college, according to the suit, that interpreters couldn’t be used in the clinical program because of federal privacy concerns.
She said Wednesday through a cell phone text message that she’s wanted to be a nurse for more than 25 years because she “loves medical and health and helping people.”
She said she failed the clinical course because she didn’t have an interpreter and felt like a “failure.” Most professors, she said, feel she can’t be a nurse because of the communication barrier, but she said: “I can find a way to communicate. Anything is possible.”
– Thanks to NVRC, Fairfax (08/16/11)