Parents fight college students’ suspension over lack of off-campus face coverings
AMHERST, Mass. (WCVB) - The families of at least two students at a Massachusetts University are preparing a lawsuit after they say the young women were kicked out after a photo of them off-campus without face coverings surfaced.
Three female freshmen, all honors students, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst attended an off-campus party in March. A photo of the three not wearing masks was posted on Instagram.
The students’ parents, who did not want to be identified by last name out of fear it would hurt their daughters’ chances when applying to other schools, say the three women were immediately moved out of on-campus housing and had to attend class remotely at home while they appealed their case.
“They took a picture off-campus on a Saturday, and they got thrown out of school,” one parent said.
The students lost their appeals and, according to their parents, were immediately kicked out of school, forfeiting the entire semester’s grades and $16,000 in tuition.
“These beautiful young ladies, who are honors students, have had a full academic year stripped away and their paths broken of their higher education for alleged COVID violations,” another parent said.
With no recourse, the families are now putting together a class action lawsuit against the university with support from Democratic state Sen. Barry Finegold.
“The University of Massachusetts Amherst suspending them, that is a cost to these families of $16,000,” Finegold said. “That is a huge, hefty penalty for not wearing a mask.”
The parents say the students’ punishment is especially egregious because the school held a parade April 11 for the championship men’s ice hockey team. They say students at the parade – and the event itself – violated COVID-19 regulations.
The university did not comment specifically on the young women’s case but shared a statement documenting the school’s communications with students, faculty and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Expectations regarding students’ responsibility to follow public health protocols, and the consequences for failing to do so, were clearly communicated to students before and throughout the spring semester,” said the university in part. “In February 2021, the university… promptly imposed… a prohibition on student social gatherings. It was made clear to students that those who failed to comply would be subject to discipline, including suspension.”
The university says the prohibited gatherings included those off-campus.
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