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Former Students Sue Lake Superior College

Updated: 07/16/2014 10:58 PM
Created: 07/16/2014 3:52 PM WDIO.com

16 former students in the Diagnostic Medical Sonography program at Lake Superior College have filed lawsuits against the school. They had hoped to be able to perform ultrasounds as their career. 

But the plaintiffs allege that they cannot continue in that field.

The issue surrounds something called accreditation, which schools earn by proving to an accrediting body they can meet certain national standards.

The lawsuits allege that the school and its staff promised multiple times that they were seeking accreditation and would be accredited, to students in the program. 

In court on Tuesday, an attorney for the plaintiffs said, "We are here because of lies and deceit."

Much of the alleged deceit is related to the instructor, Robert Naughton. For example, the plaintiffs cite a March 2010 email Naughton wrote to a student.

The student initiated the email exchange, according to the lawsuit, and asked Naughton how the accreditation process was going.

Naughton replied, according to the lawsuit, "We have our first site visit from (our accrediting board) in August. If we pass on the first try, we get accredited right away...Hope that helps. Robert." 

When Judge Dale Harris asked about this email in court, the attorney for the school said, "This was an incorrect statement, but we don't think it was maliciously done."

Court documents say that the school did not apply for accreditation until February of 2012. However, the program was suspended in 2013,  the same year Naughton was let go, according to the attorney for the school.

Graduates and former students told Eyewitness News they stayed in the program because of promises that Naughton and other staff made about accreditation. They declined to go on camera, but told us that they were passionate about this career choice.  They told us they feel betrayed because they trusted their instructor, staff, and school to tell them the truth about accreditation and the process of finding work after graduating.

Without the accreditation, they tell us it's nearly impossible to take the certification exam or get the clinical training they need to take the certification exam. Students explained that many health organizations require that graduates come from an accredited school, before they can be hired for clinicals.

The program was around two years of their life, and cost them around $20,000 for tuition, according to plaintiffs and school records.

Gary Halom, an attorney for the plaintiffs told us, "We just want LSC to do the right thing, and deliver an education from an accredited school. We're hoping they will pay to send these people to an accredited school. The four in Minnesota average out to be about $26,000-$28,000. And there's damages each student suffered along the way, including loans and travel."

An attorney for the school said in court on Tuesday that all of the plaintiffs knew the program was not accredited.

Lake Superior College said they do not comment on pending litigation.

A mediation between the two sides is coming up in August.

A trial has been scheduled for November.

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