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Parent Sues Rutgers, Demanding Tuition Refund Due To Coronavirus

Online classes and Zoom sessions are not what the parents purchased when they paid their daughter’s spring 2020 tuition, the suit argues.

By Carly Baldwin, Patch Staff 
May 21, 2020 4:14 pm ET | Updated May 22, 2020 8:58 am ET
Rutgers received an estimated $54.16 million from the federal government through the CARES Act.
Rutgers received an estimated $54.16 million from the federal government through the CARES Act. (Shutterstock)

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — An anonymous parent of a Rutgers University student filed a class-action lawsuit against the school this week, seeking a partial tuition refund in light of the school’s campus closure due to COVID-19.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in superior court in Middlesex County. This week, a student filed a similar lawsuit against Kean University, saying online classes were not what she paid for.

When the pandemic first began, Rutgers gave students pro-rated refunds for housing, dining and parking charges beginning on March 23 and lasting through May 16, said Rutgers spokeswoman Dory Devlin. (May 16 is the required move-out date at the university.)

However, what this parent is seeking is not a refund for campus meals and housing: They would like a tuition refund, arguing that — because all her classes were virtual instead of in-person — their daughter received a radically different learning experience than what they paid for.

“While plaintiff’s daughter could have obtained her degree online, their daughter specifically selected an in-person, in-class experience,” the lawsuit argues.

“The shift to online instruction affected the depth,” read the suit. “Often links sent by professors were not compatible with her computer and she missed opportunities to view videos and listen to audio lectures that were necessary for her learning. Instead, she was only able to review the bullet-point lecture slides and missed a lot of necessary information from the lectures.”

The suit was filed by law firm Hagens Berman, which has also brought similar lawsuits against Boston University, Brown, Duke, Emory, George Washington University, USC, Vanderbilt and Washington University in St. Louis.

“What Rutgers is offering is not what students or parents paid for,” Berman said.

Specific course fees, where appropriate, were refunded on a course-by-course basis, said Rutgers spokeswoman Devlin.

But no university in America, including Rutgers, has given refunds based on the differences between in-class and online learning due to the coronavirus shutdown.

The plaintiff is listed as by John Doe. U.S. law allows civil suits to be filed anonymously or under a pseudonym in certain cases to “protect a person (in this case the Rutgers student) from harassment, injury, ridicule or personal embarrassment.”

The lawsuit is class-action, meaning that anyone can join the suit.

“We understand that universities have been put under unforeseen circumstances and had to act quickly in the face of the pandemic,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman. “But we also believe that is no excuse to ignore the rights of students paying for access to campus amenities, in-person education and all the other benefits commonly afforded to them in a typical semester.”

According to the lawsuit, Rutgers had a record-breaking fundraising year with more than 48,500 donors contributing $250.9 million. Recently, Rutgers received an estimated $54.16 million from the federal government as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Experts offer advice to help parents ‘manage the meltdowns’ during time at home with kids

by Ashley Gooden | Monday, May 18th 2020

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBMA) — Since school has been out, many children have started to grow anxious and irritable with having to stay at home so much. ABC 33/40 is getting help from experts to help manage the meltdowns.

Kiara Harris is the parent of a 5 year-old, and as you can imagine, her son, Noah, is getting a little antsy staying at home.

“We’re accustomed to going to jump parks or to indoor playgrounds and he doesn’t quite understand why he can’t go outside and play on the playground and he’s made a few comments like he misses school or he wants to have fun this weekend. So, it’s been really odd for both of us because he can’t get out the energy he’s accustomed to getting out,” says Harris.

Things are a little odd for most parents right now… Many kids are more irritable, and it’s not their fault.

“I feel bad that there isn’t that much we can do,” says Harris.

Doctors say there are a couple of things parents can do while at home like noticing if the irritability is coming from them or the child, and also realizing changes in behavior that are out of the ordinary.

“For most children what you’re going to be noticing is a normal reaction to the circumstances, basic support, finding ways to help them cope, creating activities, help them find ways to creatively stay in touch with their friends,” says Dr. Dan Marullo, a psychologist at Children’s of Alabama.

Marullo says tummy aches, headaches, and other aches and pains can be a sign of emotional distress.

Dr. Amin Gilani, a psychiatrist associated with Brookwood Baptist Medical Center says now more than ever your children are watching you to see how they should behave.

“There will be long term consequences of the isolation, social distancing, the whole pandemic thing, and parents are consuming all the news from all of the sources and the amount of stress and amount of reaction parents are going through will determine how badly their kids will be effected,” says Gilani.

Gilani also recommends paying attention to how much your child is online, he says there should be a maximum of 4 hours spent in front of a screen.

He mentions there could be much difficulty for children, when it comes to heading back to school.

“So it’s going to be an extreme level of emotion. Some kids will be too happy and some will be too scared and that is not a good sign. I would be very careful and talk to your kids, be like hey I know we had a long break, we didn’t go outside, but in the august, you may have to go back to school,” says Gilani.

If you’d like an additional resource to help walk you through how to cope with difficulties you may be facing at home with your children, you can call Children’s of Alabama’s free confidential phone response center that links adult callers to mental health resources for children and teens.

That number is 205-638-PIRC (7472).

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