SOU sued over dyslexic student's F grades

A Southern Oregon University student has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the school for two failing grades, saying the school has inconsistently accommodated his learning disabilities.

Mikhail Savona, 22, claims he failed two classes because the university denied him reasonable test-taking accommodations, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court. The complaint seeks damages "not to exceed" $1 million.

Savona's lawyer Chris Cauble said Savona has thrived in classes that accommodate doctor-diagnosed disabilities, but two failing grades stem from professors who refused him accommodations such as extra time or that questions be read orally.

The university has not yet filed a formal response to Savona's lawsuit, and SOU spokesman Joe Mosley wouldn't comment on particulars about the case, though he said generally that the university's policy is to offer "accommodations to any student who has disabilities of any kind — learning or otherwise.”

Savona has dyslexia and dyscalculia, according to Cauble, which impacts his ability to read and write quickly and challenges his mathematical equation comprehension skills, Cauble said, adding that the university knew about the disabilities when they admitted him under special circumstances that waived SAT or ACT scores.

“The way that they’re treating him, he can’t graduate,” Cauble said.

Cauble said his client, who lives in student housing at the Ashland campus, has strong attendance, performs the reading and assignments and applies himself, but struggles severely with tests.

 “He’s an intelligent guy, he understands and can talk about it,” Cauble said, adding that the issue is "just writing it down.”

Cauble said the university's accommodations haven't been uniform class-to-class.

“I think they’re leaving it up to the individual professor,” Cauble said. “And some professors are more receptive to it than others.”

Though Savona failed Business Administration 110 in 2015, which the lawsuit alleges was because he was denied accommodations, the issue came to a head at the end of winter term, when Savona failed Environmental Science 101, a course required to graduate.

Savona and his parents tried to appeal the science grade through administration procedures, culminating in a March 6 hearing that ultimately didn't lead to a grade change. Savona and his parents didn't feel heard, according to Cauble.

Cauble said Savona's family has more resources than some students to press the issue, but his client has to fight in order to complete his education.

“He won’t get his degree if this is not fixed,” Cauble said. “He’s not trying to get anything for free or trying to use the court to manipulate the grading process."

 — Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

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