MGCCC facing discrimination lawsuit from former student

Published: May. 11, 2022 at 6:08 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College is facing a discrimination lawsuit involving a former student.

Maggie Russell loves art, and from 2015-19, she was pursing a fine arts degree from MGCCC. Despite a 3.6 GPA and completing 93 hours in a 60 hour degree program, she was unable to graduate.

The college required her to pass college algebra. Since Russell suffers from autism, Asperger’s and another learning disability called dyscalculia, she said she was unable to for fill the requirement.

“People with special needs like myself have to work twice as hard to get where we are,” Russell said.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of Russell in Federal Court last month claims that state law required the college to offer Maggie a comparable course.

“I would like to have my fine arts degree, but I would also like for them to re-look into their policies regarding special education, they need to do some more reform in their polices,” Russell said.

Maggie’s mother Susan Russell said the motivation behind the lawsuit is to ensure her daughter receives a degree.

“Whatever it takes to get it done even if I have to go to the Supreme Court,” said Susan Russell. “I’m doing this because of what my daughter’s been through, she’s been hurt.”

Initially, MGCCC issued just a brief statement about the case saying: “In September 2019, the Office of Civil Rights determined that the college had met all necessary requirements and closed the case. We are not able to comment on the details of this ongoing legal matter.”

After this story ran on WLOX News, school officials reached back out with a new statement about the lawsuit:

“Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College has been steadfast in attempting to work with Ms. Maggie Russell to further her education, including procuring ADA accommodations and free tutoring for her benefit. In addition, three alternative options were provided Ms. Russell that would satisfy the learning outcomes and competencies of the algebra course and allow her to attain her degree.

“MGCCC has always been, and will continue to be, intently focused on ensuring all students are given viable opportunities to further their education. MGCCC will continue working diligently to meet students where they are and provide them with opportunities for success and completion.”

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