Two medical diagnostic students accused Valencia College in Orlando, Florida that they were asked by their instructors to comply to transvaginal exams while attending the diagnostic medical sonography associate’s degree program, even if they did not want to do so. This was part of their training, as they had to learn how to do the medical procedure.
Their accusations are detailed in a federal lawsuit that they filed on Thursday, the 14th of May 2015. They are accusing the college and three of their instructors (Linda Shaheen, Maureen Bugnacki and Barbara Ball) of having threatened them to lower their grades or of not giving them the necessary recommendations for future employees unless they agree to be examined.
According to the lawsuit, even if Valencia College regarded the exams as voluntary, this was only in theory because in practice, students did not have much of a choice. The two students also claimed that they were told that students should experience such exams in order to become better professionals. The lawsuit also gives an account of how these probes were carried out – the students had to undress in restrooms, cover themselves in towels and pass in front of their fellow students and instructors. Afterwards, one of the students would perform the transvaginal ultrasound procedure which was uncomfortable most of the times. The two plaintiffs felt embarrassed when their fellow students carried out this examination, especially when they sometimes had to endure sexual stimulation in order to have the probe inserted into their vaginas. Furthermore, they claimed that one of the instructors, Barbara Ball made some very inappropriate comments while one of them was being examined and that her behavior raises some serious questions regarding the true reasons behind her wish to have her students submit to these procedures.
According to the young women’s lawyer, Chris Dillingham, Valencia State College faces some serious accusations, given the fact that the plaintiffs’ First and Fourth Amendments were violated (being submitted to vaginal exams and their right to refuse to do so). The college failed to respect its initial terms – the voluntary nature of the examination and they must be held responsible for causing psychological damage to the students. He also stated that there are other means to have students learn how to do various procedures, including the use of dummies.
Representatives of the college have not made any comments on the accusations yet but they have released a statement in which they mentioned that the use of volunteers has always been a common practice in most medical colleges. These volunteers sometimes included students but, from their point of view, the college staff have always maintained the highest standards to ensure the best learning environment.
The two students have decided to remain anonymous in order to protect themselves. The lawsuit is already facing criticism from those who regard the diagnostic medical sonography associate’s degree program at Valencia State College as an excellent program that should not be discontinued. Furthermore, it is claimed that most of these students’ patients would prefer to have their sonography technicians trained on people rather than dummies.
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