Law student with dyslexia and low 'grape' point average sues SIU for $1.5 million

By Ann Knef | Oct 31, 2007

A white female law student whose first year grades precluded a second year invitation, claims Southern Illinois University School of Law discriminated against her because she suffers from "Attention Span Deficit Disorder."

Lisa Dawn Rittenhouse of St. Clair County is seeking more than $1.5 million dollars from SIU, SIU School of Law and dean Peter C. Alexander claiming they also engaged in reverse discrimination by allowing minorities with worse grades than her to be readmitted.

According to a lawsuit filed Oct. 29 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, Rittenhouse alleges the defendants violated the "Americans for (sic) Disability Act," the Rehabilitation Act and violated a constitutional guarantee for equal protection under the law.

Rittenhouse started law school in August 2006 and was turned down for re-admission in 2007, following a first semester grade point average of 1.694 and a second semester grade point average of 2.220.

She claims her combined average was 1.948, and that pursuant to law school rules, only students who attain an average of 1.95 or better are allowed the unconditional right to proceed.

"Plaintiff was a qualified applicant for readmission in that in her Petition and her record of performance she demonstrated she had the capability of achieving a 2.00 grape (sic) point average," the complaint states.

Rittenhouse claims that since age 5 she has been diagnosed with ADHD with hyperactivity as well as dyslexia. At 13 she claims she was diagnosed with Type II bipolar disorder.

She was denied an appeal for readmission by a three-member panel in July, the suit claims.

Rittenhouse claims that minority students seeking readmission to law school were allowed to change their grades after the grades were posted, but she was denied the same opportunity. She also claims she was the best qualified student seeking readmission.

She is represented by Darrell Dunham of Carbondale.

Of the six students seeking readmission, Rittenhouse claims her application was the only one turned down.

"On information and belief a total of six students applied for readmission to the law school, none of which were handicapped and four of which were racial minorities," the complaint states.

"Two of the racial minority Petitioners did not have a sufficient grade point average in law school rules to petition for readmission.

"Based upon information sufficient to form a belief, as an accommodation to said racial minority Petitioner's the Law School effected a change in the student's grades solely for the purpose of permitting the students to file a Petition with the design and purpose of granting their Petitions for readmission."

Rittenhouse claims she was not informed of the law school's "pattern and practice of changing grades for those students there were (sic) in special favor with the Law School."

"Plaintiff is disabled within the meaning of the Rehabilitation Act in that she suffers from a physical and mental impairment that substantially limits here (sic) ability to perform manual tasks and learn," the complaint states.

The lawsuit is not described as a class action, but in Rittenhouse's prayer she seeks relief for herself and "other similarly situated students."

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