Former student wins suit against Terra

FREMONT – A judgment was issued Monday in favor of a former Terra State Community College student who filed a lawsuit claiming a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The college must to pay $75,000 to former student Shirley Parrott-Copus.

Parrott-Copus, who is hard of hearing, had more than 14 years of experience as a licensed practical nurse when she enrolled at Terra to pursue a license registered nurse.

Parrot-Copus claimed Terra required her to prove she could hear or she would be dismissed from the program.

According to a release, Parrot-Copus also had been refused auxiliary aids and services to ensure effective communication.

Terra eventually dismissed her from the program based on her disability.

“Yesterday’s judgment against the college ends the federal lawsuit and clears the way for Parrott-Copus to pursue her dreams of earning an advanced nursing degree,” stated a release from the National Association of the Deaf.

“What matters is that a nurse is committed, skilled, passionate and caring,” Parrot-Copus said. “As one of many deaf and hard-of- hearing nurses, I am thrilled that the court has entered judgment against Terra. Whether a nurse can hear or not has nothing to do with whether they can make a difference in the world for their patients.”

“In light of the recent allegations brought through a complaint, the college thoroughly reviewed its accommodation policies and procedures, and how they were applied to the student who initiated the complaint,” reads a statement issued by Terra Tuesday.

“After review, the college believes that its policies and procedures are sound and afford protections to both the college and its student body.”

To resolve the litigation, Terra entered into an offer of judgment, which admits no liability on behalf of the college, its nursing program or its faculty or staff.

“This is a complex case,” Jerome Webster, president of Terra, said in the statement. “Based on the limited and conflicting information that the college had received from Ms. Parrott-Copus at the time the decision was made, Terra State believed that it acted lawfully.”

The judgment includes $50,000 related to the plaintiff’s claims and $25,000 for all costs, expenses and attorneys’ fees incurred by Parrott-Copus.

Parrot-Copus was represented by the National Association of the Deaf and the law firms of Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC and Stein & Vargas LLP.

“There are extraordinary medical and nursing professionals through the United States who are deaf and hard of hearing,” Mary Vargas, an attorney representing Parrot-Copus, said. “These doctors and nurses have much to offer and must be judged on the basis of their abilities, not on the basis of outdated stereotypes.”

“(Parrot-Copus) is as committed as ever to earning her RN degree,” Vargas said.