CHICAGO - A federal appeals court in Chicago has shut down a legal action brought by a former student at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, who had alleged the school had improperly disciplined her over an image she posted to her personal Instagram account, and then later wrongly accused her of plagiarism.
On June 26, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld U.S. District Judge John Z. Lee's decisions concerning plaintiff Jennifer DiPerna's dismissal from the Chicago school's master's program.
"We conclude there is no genuine issue of material fact...nor is there any merit to DiPerna's arguments," Seventh Circuit Judge Daniel Manion said in the appeals court ruling.
According to court documents, DiPerna was a student pursuing a master’s degree in clinical psychology at TCSPP. At some point TCSPP disciplined DiPerna, allegedly for posting an image to her personal Instagram account which TCSPP considered offensive, DiPerna sued over that discipline, alleging breach of contract and negligence.
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Approximately one year after DiPerna filed her complaint, one of her professors accused her of plagiarism. The appeals court said a hearing was held before a school committee, and DiPerna was dismissed.
The opinion said DiPerna amended her complaint to include claims related to her dismissal and to voluntarily withdraw some of her original claims, and the district judge granted summary judgment to TCSPP on all the others.
In addition to the dismissal issue, Judge Lee also granted summary judgment to TCSPP on DiPerna’s claims for reimbursement of tuition and living expenses.
Manion said, “Summary judgment was also appropriate concerning DiPerna’s entitlement to living expenses and tuition as damages. Her claim for living expenses arose from her dismissal. We have just concluded that her dismissal was not improper, so she is not entitled to recover living expenses incurred because of it.”
Concerning DiPerna's claims for tuition, Manion said the district court concluded they were related to the punishment she received from the Student Affairs Committee after her first appeal to that body regarding her Instagram post.
The district court said DiPerna could not seek tuition reimbursement because she gave up her claims related to the college’s Academic Development Plan and an internship delay.
“Despite DiPerna’s arguments that she did not plagiarize, our role in her case against TCSPP was not to decide whether TCSPP exercised its academic judgment unwisely, but only whether it exercised its academic judgment at all,” Manion said in the appeals court opinion.
The school is represented in the action by attorneys Alisa Beth Arnoff and Gregg J. Simon, of the firm of Scalambrino & Arnoff LLP, of Chicago.
DiPerna is represented by attorneys Jason J. Bach, of The Bach Law Firm LLC, of Las Vegas, and Ryan D. Gibson, Carter A. Korey, Elliot S. Richardson and Amy Jo Hoffman, of the firm of Korey Richardson LLC, of Chicago.