A class action lawsuit against Lehigh University, Bethlehem Area School District and the Community Voices Clinic is seeking $54 million in punitive damages. The lawsuit was filed on Jan. 17. (Megan Burke/B&W Staff)

BREAKING: Class action lawsuit against Lehigh University, BASD asks for $54 million in damages

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A class action lawsuit against Lehigh University, Bethlehem Area School District and the Community Voices Clinic is seeking $54 million in punitive damages.

The lawsuit, filed Jan. 17 in federal court, is alleging the university violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Darcy Lynn Scheyer, a graduate student at Lehigh, is representing a class of at least 700 individuals who possess a recorded disability and interacted with the university.

“Ms. Scheyer…. was often unwilling to participate in the Office of Disability Support Services’ interactive accommodation process, rejected reasonable accommodations and failed to meet fundamental program requirements necessary for a clinical degree in counseling and human services,” said Lori Friedman, Lehigh’s director of media relations, in an emailed statement. “This claim is about one student. There is no basis for the vague class allegations. The faculty in the College of Education, including Dr. Inman, and the Office of Disability Support Services acted in accordance with the law, and the university will defend this lawsuit.”

The lawsuit was filed pro se, or on Scheyer’s own behalf without an attorney. Arpana Inman is the clinic director for the Community Voices Clinic and an employee of Lehigh’s College of Education. The Community Voices Clinic is a mental health program available in some Bethlehem schools through a partnership between Lehigh, BASD and St. Luke’s Health Network. 

Scheyer did not respond to a request for comment. BASD Superintendent Joseph Roy was not available for comment. 

The lawsuit stems from allegations that Scheyer, a graduate student pursuing a degree in Lehigh’s College of Education, was denied reasonable accommodations as a disabled student and was retaliated against. She alleges that the university instructed Muhlenberg College in October 2019 to remove Scheyer from her internship at the college for the 2019-2020 school year as part of her degree in counseling and human services.

Scheyer said no justification was given for her removal. She claims the university and BASD failed to make reasonable accommodations for her disability, which was not specified in the lawsuit.

Scheyer, who was a graduate trainee in BASD’s Community Voices Clinic, alleges in the lawsuit that the program provided false and inaccurate information on evaluation forms.

Various types of mandated supervision throughout her training programs were also not provided by the university, the lawsuit states. Scheyer alleges that confidential, private information was shared among the university, the clinic and BASD.

Scheyer’s attorney is demanding a trial by jury. The plaintiff was awarded a “right to sue” notice by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Nov. 8, 2019. Lehigh was notified of this notice at approximately that time.

This report was updated to include information from Lori Friedman, Lehigh’s director of media relations. 

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