Dispute about virtual class grades leads to suit against FCPS

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Fayette Co. Public School Administration building.

Fayette Co. Public School Administration building.

Staff file photo

The father of a Fayette County Public Schools student is suing the superintendent, board of education and others affiliated with the school system after he took issue with the way his son’s virtual classes were graded and felt his concerns weren’t properly handled.

Zhengya Qi filed a complaint in Fayette Circuit Court on Aug. 9, claiming his child’s grades were not properly weighted by the school system during online schooling throughout the pandemic. In addition, he states his complaints were not properly handled by the board of education when he request a hearing take place to speak with the board members.

According to the lawsuit, the complaints are against Fayette County Public Schools, Superintendent Demetrus Liggins, the board of education, board Chair Tyler Murphy, and Tracy Bruno, the chief middle school leadership officer at FCPS.

Lisa Deffendall, a spokeswoman for FCPS said the school system could not comment on pending litigation.

Qi’s son was a Virtual Learning Academy ninth-grade student during 2020 and 2021 and is now a 10th-grade student at the Dunbar High School Math Science Technology Center. During his time at the virtual academy, he took five honors courses, which Qi believed should carry a weighted grade point average, but the classes were unweighted.

Qi said his son’s goal is to get into one of the top colleges in the United States, which requires a certain high grade point average. Without some of the classes he took having a weighted GPA, Qi’s son will not be able to meet these requirements, Qi alleged.

He complained to the virtual academy, which is overseen by Fayette County Schools, and told them the grades should be weighted, according to the lawsuit. When the academy did not directly change the averages, the father went to Liggins to express concerns.

Liggins said honor courses in Fayette County are not eligible for weighted GPA like general courses, and some of the courses could not be changed, according to the lawsuit. Liggins also said Qi needed to file a complaint with the board of education before the complaint could be filed directly with him.

Qi complained to Murphy, the board chairman, who allegedly said the complaint was overdue, and that Qi could not appeal, according to court records. Qi alleges that Murphy violated board policy in rejecting the complaint. Murphy “refused to arrange” for the board to convene a private or public hearing so the board could listen to his complaint, according to court documents.

“After Mr. Murphy received my complaint to the Board of Education against Mr. Liggins, instead of submitting my complaint to the board according to the board’s complaint procedures, he suggested that I communicated directly with Mr. Liggins,” the document reads. “This is clearly not in line with board policy.”

Qi said Murphy’s “breach of complaint procedure” by making his non-appealable decision was not only wrong, but beyond the purview of his board chairmanship.

“Therefore, it was his personal wrongdoing to stop me from complaining, which was not fulfilling the duties of the chairman of the board,” Qi wrote. … “Mr. Murphy treated my complaint unfairly. He refused to hold a public or private hearing that I could attend as a party.”

Qi argued that because Murphy would not let him communicate with them inside of FCPS, he was forced to go to court to communicate.

“In other words, it was entirely because Mr. Murphy that forced me to sue,” he said.

Qi is seeking injunctive relief to have a fair hearing conducted, a trial by jury, and a protection order issued prohibiting the five defendants from taking retaliatory actions against his son because of the lawsuit.

In addition, he is also seeking declaratory relief for 22 statements regarding the policies of honors courses, how GPA is weighted, the board’s policies and practices, and that Murphy went beyond the scope of his duties and violated board policies.

In his lawsuit, Qi has requested that Murphy pay all court costs in the action and the costs of serving all five defendants’ summons.

Taylor Six is the criminal justice reporter at the Herald-Leader. She was born and raised in Lexington attending Lafayette High School. She graduated from Eastern Kentucky University in 2018 with a degree in journalism. She previously worked as the government reporter for the Richmond Register.

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