Student claims professor flunked her for being Muslim

CRANFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A student is suing a New Jersey college, claiming her professor gave her an F in a course because she is Muslim.

Sahna ElBanna alleged in the lawsuit that in spring 2016 she endured a semester of Union County College professor Toby Grodner making derogatory comments about Muslims. Grodner allegedly said that all Muslims were terrorists, but ElBanna didn’t say anything at the time, according to a report. She received a B-plus in that class.

ElBanna signed up for a second class with Grodner — Principals of Marketing — in the fall because she needed the course to graduate, according to her lawyer, Tariq Hussain.

The professor made more comments about Muslims, and ElBanna asked her to stop, according to the lawsuit.

“My client did her best to, sort of, ignore those comments and move forward with her class,” Hussain told 1010 WINS. “At one point, my client made a comment to the professor, telling her that she, the professor shouldn’t be making those comments about Muslims, that it’s encouraging or fostering an atmosphere of hate in the classroom.”

Grodner responded defensively and asked questions about her religion, the lawsuit said.

“Doesn’t your religion believe men are superior to women?” Grodner asked ElBanna, according to the lawsuit.

“Do you even pray five times a day?” the professor asked her in another instance, the lawsuit said.

Grodner did not respond to messages seeking comment Thursday.

Bernard Lenihan, a spokesman for the college, said it is investigating a complaint ElBanna filed against the professor. He declined to comment on the lawsuit.

In January, ElBanna discovered she received an F in the course despite receiving two A’s on assignments worth 60 percent of her grade, the lawsuit said. Grodner confirmed ElBanna received an A on her midterm and final, according to the suit, but she said ElBanna received F’s on several multimedia assignments.

“She was robbed of her dignity in the classroom,” the lawsuit stated.

ElBanna tried to appeal her grade, but college policy requires an instructor signature on the appeal form. Grodner refused twice, according to the lawsuit. The dean did not get involved because the appeal lacked Grodner’s signature.

“She went in to talk to the administrative board to appeal her grade,” Hussain said. “She was instructed that in order to submit the grade for an appeal, she has to get the professor’s signature on it. And the complaint states what happened in that incident: The professor refused to sign. The professor sort of stood by her claim, told my client she was being disrespectful, and just flat out refused to sing the appeal form.”

ElBanna’s grade could delay her graduation, according to her lawyer. Hussain said she would have to pay to make up the course.

ElBanna is still a student at the college, and she has passed all her other classes, the attorney said.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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