Alumnus sues GW for discrimination based on disability

Updated: May 13, 2016 at 2:07 p.m.

An alumnus is suing the University for breach of contract, harassment, discrimination and retaliation because of his disability.

Bruno Mpoy, who earned a master’s degree in education and human development last spring, is asking the University to remove a C+ grade and an incomplete/failing mark on his transcript. According to the lawsuit, he received the C+ grade in retaliation for a complaint he filed against the University and received the incomplete mark because he was refused the same internship his classmates completed.

The document alleges that Mpoy did not receive the same educational opportunities in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development as other students because of his disability. He received poor grades after the University would not assess a teaching internship he completed and alleged one professor did not treat him appropriately, according to the complaint.

“GWU granted plaintiff’s requests only when it was convenient for GWU and denied them when GWU was more interested in establishing a smoke screen for harassment, discrimination, and retaliation against Plaintiff,” according to the complaint.

Mpoy filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court April 4, according to court documents.

University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar declined to comment on the case, citing a University policy not to comment on pending litigation.

The complaint requests actual, compensatory and punitive damages from the University, but requests no specific dollar amount for the damages.

Mpoy is also asking for punitive damages from GW for violating Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The acts prohibit institutions that receive federal funding from discriminating against people with disabilities.

The University did not inform Mpoy that he was at a risk of receiving incomplete or failing grades he could only have received because of his disability, according to the complaint.

“Although some of Mr. Mpoy’s efforts were fruitful, resulting in his graduation, GWU refused to treat Mr. Mpoy fairly, provide him equal educational opportunity or refrain from discriminating against him on the basis disability,” according to the document.

Mpoy has a disability that “affects his ability to carry out major life functions and the performance of many daily activities,” according to the complaint. He was “capable of completing tasks” and his assignments at GW if he received “proper accommodation.”

Mpoy said in an interview that people with disabilities can be more vulnerable than others. He said he filed the suit on behalf of all other students with disabilities will be treated fairly and lawfully.

“I’m not interested in money,” he said. “I’m interested in fairness.”

GW refused to assign Mpoy to a teaching internship he was required to take as part of his degree because of his disability, according to the document. Mpoy enrolled in the six-credit program and paid tuition for an internship that he found on his own.

“GWU refused to supervise, evaluate, assess or grade Mr. Mpoy’s teaching internships as it did for other students in the same program as Mr. Mpoy,” according to the complaint.

The complaint alleges that Mpoy received “mostly the grade of A” in his classes, except in his teaching internship. He requested an appeal of the grades and then wrote to the provost and the general counsel requesting to change the grades multiple times, according to the document.

GW typically notifies students when they receive failing or incomplete grades, according to the complaint, and Mpoy was not notified of a deadline for completing the internship before he received the incomplete grade.

Mpoy had previously filed a complaint through the University against Jay Shotel, a professor emeritus of special education and disability studies at GW. Shotel harassed Mpoy in front of other classmates by “saying he had a difficult life,” according to the document.

The complaint alleges that Shotel gave Mpoy a C+ in a class as a form of retaliation against Mpoy’s complaint against him. Mpoy was denied a fair hearing for his complaint against Shotel, according to the document.

Michael Feuer, the dean of the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, called Mpoy about his complaint to “appease him with false promises,” according to the complaint.

Shotel said in an email that GW’s earlier decision found that Mpoy’s complaints were “without merit.”

“I spent the majority of my life and my career advocating for persons with disabilities,” Shotel said. “He was given due process in the issues he raised.”

Mpoy also sued the District government in 2012 after he was allegedly fired from a teaching job, Courthouse News Service reported. Mpoy said in an email he was not fired, but his contract was not renewed for the following year because he “refused to cheat on test scores.”

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Mpoy received both failing and incomplete grades on his transcript. He just received an incomplete/failing grade. We regret this error. This post is also updated to include a statement from Mpoy.

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