Calif. Student Sues Teacher, District Over C+ Grade

A C+ is considered average on the grading scale but for one California high school student it was well below average, enough so that he filed a lawsuit against both his teacher and school district.

Bowen Bethards, 17, was a sophomore in Peggy Carlock's chemistry class at Albany High School in Albany, Calif., outside of San Francisco, in the 2010-11 school year when she gave him the C+ grade at the center of the suit, according to court records first reported by the Albany Patch.

Bethards, in a lawsuit filed with his mother, Laureen, in Contra Costa County Superior Court last month, claims that he has suffered severe physical and emotional suffering, damage to his academic reputation, and diminished chances of getting into his college of choice because of the grade.

The Bethards claim that Carlock, who no longer teaches at the school, punished Bowen for missing class on a day that his fellow students performed a lab.  Bethards, according to the suit, had to miss class to attend the adoption hearing for his younger sister and so informed Carlock of his absence ahead of time.  The two agreed upon a make-up date but when Bethards showed up on the agreed-upon date, he says, Carlock said he could not make up the lab and was instead, "going to fail him," according to court documents.

"My son was denied his rights and they stole his grade from him," Laureen Bethards told  "He had a 106 percent and he always went to class and he missed that one class and he was entitled to make up that missed lab and they didn't let him."

Complaints placed by Laureen Bethards on her son's behalf escalated all the way to the Albany Unified School District's superintendent, Marla Stephenson, and resulted in a $10,000 government claim filed against the District by the Bethards last year.

The school district rejected the claim in January but did change the grade for Bethards, who by then had transferred to another high school, to a B.

The Bethards are requesting in the lawsuit, which names the district superintendent and school principal in addition to Carlock, that, along with the monetary damages, the district change the grade to an A+.

"We did everything we could to get the school to allow him to make up that lab and they assured us they would," Bethards said.  " It was an excused absence.  I don't think he missed more than one or two days the entire year before that."

The suit says Carlock's refusal to allow the teen to make up the lab violated California Education Code Section 88205.  The missed lab, according to Bethards, dropped his overall grade from an A+ to a C+.

Court documents filed on Bethards' behalf also state that, "Carlock was aware, at all relevant times, that a 'C+' in chemistry would effectively destroy plaintiff Bowen Bethards' chances of being accepted to either of his two colleges of choice, as well as his chances of getting a scholarship to attend to the programs of his choice."

"He had his grade taken away from him and got a C instead of the A that he'd worked so hard all year long to achieve by a teacher who, I discovered, had a habit of doing this to students," Bethards said.  "This is a kid who worked every day, worked on the weekends, studied and had earned his grade in chemistry."

The two parties will next meet in September for a case management conference.  The Bethards' aim is to end the dispute before Bethards, now a rising senior, has to apply for college in the fall.  He hopes to attend either UCLA or UC-San Diego to study pre-med.

"With a lot of the colleges you have to get your applications out by January," Bethards said.  "That's when we have to send transcripts out and that is obviously when the most harm is going to be done."

Phone calls placed by ABC News to the school district and Albany High School for comment were not returned.  Carlock could not be reached for comment.