Former School of Education master’s students Reva Bell and Domonique Johnson are suing UMKC. Their lawsuit alleges that by “using deception, fraud and concealed material facts” the university violated the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act and the Kansas Consumer Protection Act.
In their lawsuit, Bell and Johnson allege several complaints against UMKC, including:
• Withholding information that the Department of Education (DOE) had changed its standards of preparation and that doing so would change program requirements
• Willfully entering into contracts with terms (such as credit hours and course requirements) that the university knew they would not honor
• Withdrawing credit for coursework already completed
• Attempting to change and expand the terms of contracts (Master’s Degree Program of Study agreements) as a means of coercing Bell and Johnson into paying for additional classes and requirements to complete their degrees
UMKC officials have not responded to U-News’ request for comment.
Bell and Johnson enrolled in the Master’s Program for Special Education for the Spring 2015 and Summer 2015 semesters, respectively. When they both left the program in May 2017, Bell had earned 38 credit hours and Johnson has earned 54 credit hours.
In 2013 Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (MoDESE) set forth the new Missouri Standards for the Preparation of Educators (MoSPE) that would replace the existing standards master’s students must meet to be awarded their degrees and teaching certificates.
According to the MoDESE website, these changes went into effect March 31, 2013 with full implementation in the spring semester of 2017.
On April 1, 2015, a memo from MoDESE went out to Missouri universities detailing the new standards, and included a five-step transition process for the universities. The memo also furnished a suggested implementation schedule, which would have universities begin in the late spring of 2015 and lead to full implementation of the new standards in the spring of 2017.
According to the lawsuit, UMKC did not begin implementation of the new standards until December 2016.
“At that point, I was angry,” Johnson said. “Three years after the Missouri Department of Education told Missouri schools [about the standard changes], and UMKC had just started in December 2016.”
Johnson said this could have easily been prevented.
According to Bell and Johnson, the UMKC School of Education did not inform its students of any of these changes until March 21, 2017.
“They knew that these changes were coming but didn’t tell us about them till the last minute,” Bell said. “I felt like they were being dishonest by not divulging full information.”
When the university finally told the master’s students about the new standards, Bell and Johnson said that many of the classes they had already paid for and completed would no longer be considered as part of their completed coursework for the program. Instead, they were told they would now have to take additional classes and spend more time than they anticipated in the program, which would have incurred additional costs.
They were also told they would not be refunded for the courses that would no longer count towards their degrees.
Bell and Johnson are seeking compensation for incidental and consequential damages, attorney’s fees and other appropriate relief.