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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Former grad student says she was unfairly expelled in new lawsuit

A legal gavel and open book. Danielle Sutton, a former student in Stony Brook’s English education program, is suing the Graduate School and two of its employees. BLOGTREPRENEUR/FLICKR VIA CC BY 2.0

A former Stony Brook student is suing the university and two of its employees, claiming she was unfairly taken out of her student teaching internship and expelled from the graduate English education program after she expressed concerns about her former student teaching supervisor.

The plaintiff, Danielle Sutton, is requesting a preliminary injunction which, among other things, would allow her to return to Stony Brook to finish her degree and complete her teacher certification exams.

In a memorandum filed on Jan. 25, the university and co-defendants Charles Taber, vice provost for graduate and professional education and dean of the Graduate School, and Nicole Galante, program director for the English education program, argue that Sutton was dismissed due to her lack of professionalism and refusal to cooperate with the program’s requirements.

Sutton claims that in Fall 2017, her student teaching supervisor, Thomas Mangano, created a hostile learning environment for her after she repeatedly refused his invitations to meet off campus for breakfast both alone and with other students in the class.

Around Sept. 29, 2017, Sutton complained to Galante about Mangano’s behavior and asked if she could switch supervisors, according to the suit. The suit states that two days after Sutton was assigned to a different supervisor, Galante told her that she would not be permitted to finish her student teaching internship.

“Galante had a grudge against Plaintiff for speaking out against the Supervisor’s ‘Breakfasts’ and was concerned Plaintiff might muddy the reputation of her program,” Sutton’s complaint stated.

In her complaint, Sutton also claims that she never received a formal signed letter explaining why she was being removed from her student teaching placement and that she was not given a hearing before being removed.

In their memorandum, the defendants contend that Sutton’s dismissal was not the result of foul play, but rather her own behavior.

“Plaintiff continued to arrive late and leave early throughout her placement and had issues with attendance, preparation and professionalism,” the memorandum states, adding that she received negative performance evaluations from both her advisor and cooperating teacher at the Sachem school district.

On Oct. 16, 2017, Galante sent Sutton a contract outlining her responsibilities as a student teacher, according to the suit. Sutton claims that she was the only student who received any such contract. According to the complaint, Galante told Sutton if she signed the contract before Oct. 25, she would be allowed to continue student teaching in the spring semester, and that if she didn’t sign, she would be dismissed.

After Sutton refused to sign the contract, her complaint states that she received a letter from Taber notifying her that she had been academically dismissed for “not meeting her program’s ‘milestones.’” Sutton’s complaint also states that all milestones must be explicitly published in department policy and that the program Sutton was in had no published milestones.

Although Sutton tried to appeal the decision, she claims that Stony Brook mishandled her case and failed to give her the proper information about the appeals process.

The defendants denied these allegations, claiming Sutton was informed about the appeals process and was given a fair chance at an appeal. They are requesting that the judge dismiss Sutton’s complaint.

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