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Adam Levitt, attorney suing Liberty University

Grace Episcopal School, which Lisa “Princess Porcine” Medley refers to as “our day school” to the great angst of school staff, faces potential bad news. Specifically, an unnamed plaintiff has filed a class-action lawsuit in Lynchburg federal court against Liberty University, alleging that it has improperly retained tuition after cancelling classes and ostensibly moving them online.

Much like Liberty University, Grace School has said it will retain tuition, despite the fact that it has slapped together “distance learning” in response to COVID-19 related social distancing.

The problem, of course, is that online learning is a poor substitute for the experience that Grace School offers. Many parents pay upwards of $20,000 a year for the small class sizes, warm environment and personal attention that the school provides. A hastily thrown together online experience is a mediocre substitute, and one that in fairness warrants a large refund. That is particularly the case when, as here, some economists say we are moving into a full-blown depression.

Some major colleges and universities, including Harvard, promptly offered prorated refunds in response to the pandemic. Others, including several large state schools, are facing class action lawsuits for their failure to do so.

In the Liberty Uvinersity case, the plaintiffs note that Liberty’s failure to refund tuition and attempt to profit from the COVID-19 pandemic are particularly inappropriate in light of the school’s professed values. And such is the case with Grace Episcopal School, where Patti Culbreth now wants parents in some cases to pay more than 20K a year for the privilege of implementing the school’s distance learning plans.

In its defense, Liberty University asserts that its actions were mandated by government, and thus the plaintiffs have no case. But the school has violated the both the letter and the spirit of the state social distancing regulations, including trying to charge reporters on campus covering the issue with trespassing. Moreover, it is unlikely that the state intended to unjustly enrich organizations such as Liberty.

Those attending schools that refuse to refund tuition can reach Adam Levitt, counsel for the plaintiffs, via email at [email protected]. Levitts’s phone number is (312) 214-7900, and his offices are located at Ten North Dearborn Street, Eleventh Floor, Chicago, Illinois 60602.

I would add that the school’s proximity to the Pentagon and DC, and the experiences of 9/11, should have led it to develop distance learning contingency plans long ago. The need for a plan B is, in the overall scheme of things, neither unexpected nor surprising.