Recent reports of a lawsuit (Bethards v. Carlock) by a 17-year-old California high school student, Bowen Bethards, against his school for the C+ he received in chemistry may make you wonder: How far would a lawsuit regarding grades go in Illinois?
The issue hasn’t come before an Illinois State court. But last year, a group of Franczek Radelet attorneys (Patricia Whitten, John Relias and myself) secured a victory for Evanston Township High School District 202 in a case suggesting limits to such a lawsuit in this jurisdiction.
In Zachary M. v. ETHS 202, a former ETHS student made similar claims to those made by Bethards, including that what he considered to be low grades were hurting his chances of getting into his college of choice. Zachary M. asked that, among other things, the court order ETHS to recalculate his grades, giving him more credit than his teachers originally decided he had earned.
A federal trial court here in Chicago agreed with ETHS that the court did not have the authority to order ETHS to recalculate the student’s grades. The court explained that courts are always reluctant to wade into the murky waters of such purely academic matters as grade calculation. The court noted the impropriety of attempting to go back and revise an entire high school academic record, which inherently would involve the court in subjective academic decisions that are entirely outside the jurisdiction of a federal court.
Of course, California may have its own rules and laws that would allow Bethards to bring his suit. But at least in Illinois, there is support for the claim that changing grades is the job of schools and teachers – not courts.