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College Student Defense

So You Want to Sue Your School…

By October 19, 2020February 22nd, 2023No Comments

2020 UPDATE:

Now that school is back in session, universities and colleges around the country are having to face a difficult task: risk management in the time of COVID-19.

Many schools already had liability policies in place pre-coronavirus, but many insurers will not cover claims regarding communicable diseases, including the pandemic. 

Another issue colleges could be facing thanks to the outbreak is lawsuits due to the switch to online classes, which many students will find insufficient and over-priced.

In fact, students have already begun filing lawsuits. By June 2020, more than 70 colleges and universities throughout the U.S. were facing this type of reimbursement lawsuit.

When dealing with these types of more tangible finances (room, board, etc.), it’s easier to calculate a student’s loss than something more vague, like tuition value. Either way, students will have to prove a breach of contract claim in order to have a successful suit.

If you think you have a claim and deserve reimbursement from your school, contact DC Student Defense today for help getting started on your lawsuit.


Many university students who feel their school has failed to properly educate them or has mistreated them want to sue their university. These lawsuits tend to be based on three things; breach of contract, negligence, or fraud. However, most of these lawsuits fail, especially those that seek damages for not having received a proper education. Additionally, going up against a university, which possesses a lot of money and a big legal team, can be financially and emotionally draining.

Before you threaten to sue your university, it’s important to consider the many other steps you can take to remediate an issue. DC Student Defense can help you with these steps, as well as advise whether or not suing your school is a feasible option.

Sometimes when students receive a low grade or feel a professor or school has failed to deliver on their promise of a quality education, they may feel that a lawsuit is the way to go.

Consider these steps before you write an angry letter to your school:

Consider why you received a poor grade or grades.

If you want to sue your school because you received a poor educations and/or poor grades as a result, you would likely be filing it under a breach of contract cause of action. When you were admitted, the school promised you a valuable degree- and you feel they aren’t delivering. As upsetting as low grades can be, before taking action it’s important to reflect genuinely on what grade you may have deserved, and really consider if you went above and beyond to fulfill all of the requirements of the syllabus. Having a strict or difficult professor will not be enough to warrant legal action.

Additionally, many of these lawsuits are based on the “promises” made to students in admissions materials or student handbooks. But, if you look closely, such materials often give the school the right to change or reconsider these obligations where they see fit. If you continue to feel you have a case against your school, be sure to read these materials carefully.

Speak to a lawyer before contacting higher-ups in the administration.

Often, an issue with grades or quality of a class can be resolved informally without any legal proceedings. If the issue is presented to a dean or president within the university, there may be a solution such as retaking the class or redoing assignments. However, you shouldn’t write this letter alone. Having an attorney to help you write it, or even send it, on your behalf can indicate to the school that you take the matter seriously.

Seek Other Resources

Student have attempted to sue schools for emotional distress. These claims are unlikely to hold up in court, especially for college students. The school is under no obligation to care for their students emotionally and even so, often provide emotional and counseling resources for free or low cost. If you are experiencing emotional distress or are struggling with mental health, it’s important to seek help or consider taking a leave of absence.

Suing for Civil Rights Violations

If you believe your Civil Rights have been violated by your university, your case will likely be viewed more seriously than the cases described above. For example, there have been 459 investigations into universities for violating Title IX, the law which guarantees students the right to an education free from gender and sex based discrimination. If you have been involved in a Title IX case and feel your cases was mishandled, you should contact a lawyer experienced in Title IX cases to discuss your options.

Shan Wu

Author Shan Wu

Shan’s professional and personal background gives him a unique understanding of academic institutions and the criminal justice system. A former federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., he is at home in D.C. Courts and very familiar with all of the Washington, D.C. law enforcement agencies, especially the Metropolitan Police Department. His parents were university professors so he grew up in a university environment. He understands the mindset of academic institutions. As a prosecutor, he supervised in the misdemeanor crime section. This is the section of the Washington, D.C. prosecutor’s office that handles most college student cases. His understanding of charging decisions and how judges view these cases is invaluable to his student clients and their families. Shan served as a federal prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for over ten years. During his tenure there, now Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. appointed him to supervisory positions in the Misdemeanor Trial Section and also in a police corruption task force. His outstanding legal work in the government was recognized through numerous Special Achievement Awards from the Justice Department as well as awards conveyed by law enforcement agencies and community groups. From 1999-2000, Shan served as Counsel to Attorney General Janet Reno, advising her on criminal and civil investigations, E-Gov, E-Commerce (electronic signatures, internet gambling, internet telephony, privacy & public access issues in electronic court filings), congressional oversight, and legislative review. His responsibilities included serving as liaison to the FBI, DEA, Criminal Division, Executive Office of United States Attorneys, National Institute of Justice, and White House Counsel’s Office. Shan serves on the D.C. Bar Association’s Hearing Committee of the Board on Professional Responsibility and is a past president of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association for the Greater Washington, D.C. area. He is a 1988 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, where he graduated Order of the Barristers, edited two law reviews, and was Co-Director of the Moot Court Program. He holds a B.A. in English Literature from Vassar College as well as a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Following law school, he clerked for the late Hon. Jerry Buchmeyer, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, and the late Eugene Wright, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He is admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia and Connecticut.

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