United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit
January 11, 2017
from the United States District Court for the District of
Columbia (No. 1:14-cv-00929)
J. Bach argued the cause and filed the briefs for appellant.
Tracy D. Rezvani entered an appearance.
Nicholas S. McConnell argued the cause for appellee. With him
on the brief was James N. Markels.
Before: Tatel, Millett, and Wilkins, Circuit Judges.
George Washington University Medical School expelled
appellant for cheating on an exam, he brought suit in federal
court for breach of contract and discrimination based on
disability. The district court granted summary judgment to
the University, deferring to its view that appellant broke
its honor code and finding no violation of the relevant
disability statutes. For the reasons set forth in this
opinion, we affirm.
December 14, 2012, appellant Sina Chenari, a third-year
medical student at George Washington University, took the
Step 1 Surgery Shelf Exam, a standardized test published by
the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME). Before the
exam, the proctor read aloud the instructions from NBME's
official Chief Proctor's Manual, including that students
must complete the exam in two and a half hours and that
"[n]o additional time [would] be allowed for
transferring answers" from the test booklet to the
answer sheet. Chenari also received a copy of the "Exam
Guidelines, " which contained a similar warning.
deposition, Chenari explained that when the proctor called
time, he discovered that he had failed to transfer some
twenty or thirty answers from the test booklet to the front
side of the answer sheet. According to Chenari, he
"panicked" and "continued to transfer my
answers." Chenari Dep. 267:7-:9. The proctor "asked
me to stop, " but "I continued to bubble in [the
answer sheet]." Id. at 269:6-:18. When the
proctor then "reached over me to try to get the exam, I
just put my hand over the booklet and the exam and just
continued to bubble in my answers." Id. at
270:3-:6. Once Chenari finished, he "sat back" and
the proctor "picked [the exam] up." Id. at
278:21-280:11. As Chenari concedes, he ended up taking an
additional "90 seconds to two minutes."
Id. at 271:12-:13.
proctor reported Chenari to the medical school's
administration, as did another student present at the exam.
In response, Associate Dean for Students Rhonda Goldberg met
with Chenari to discuss the incident. According to
Goldberg's deposition, Chenari told her that he
"needed to" finish bubbling in his answers but
"probably made a mistake" by doing so. Goldberg
to University procedures, Goldberg formed an Honor Code
Council subcommittee to investigate. After holding a hearing,
the subcommittee issued a report recommending Chenari's
dismissal for academic dishonesty. The subcommittee forwarded
its recommendation to the Medical Student Evaluation
Committee, and in a written statement to that Committee
Chenari took responsibility for his "deplorable
behavior" toward the proctor, acknowledging his
"clear violation of the most basic rules of th[e]
University." Chenari Dep. Ex. 37 at 1. He nonetheless
asked for leniency because, he insisted, his "behavior
did not involve deception" and he had no prior
disciplinary infractions. Id. After a hearing, the
Committee unanimously recommended Chenari's dismissal.
The Medical School Dean then reviewed the reports, met with
Chenari, and upheld the recommendation of dismissal. Now
represented by counsel, Chenari appealed to the Provost,
arguing in a written submission that his conduct lacked
"an element of deceit" like "cheat[ing]"
or "l[ying]." Chenari Dep. Ex. 40 at 1. Rather, his
"mistake" was "completely out in the
open." Id. at 2. The Provost denied the appeal,
and the University dismissed Chenari from the medical school.
30, 2014, Chenari filed this action in the U.S. District
Court for the District of Columbia seeking reinstatement and
damages. He alleged several theories of relief. First, he
argued that he never violated the University's Honor
Code, so the University's decision to dismiss him
breached its contract with him and the contract's implied
covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Second, he claimed
that he has a disability, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
Disorder (ADHD), which he alleged the University failed to
accommodate in violation of the Rehabilitation Act
("Rehab Act"), 29 U.S.C. § 794(a), and the
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §
12132. Although Chenari also claimed that he suffered from
anxiety, he never argued, either here or in the district
court, that his anxiety qualified as a disability under the
disability statutes. See Adams v. Rice, 531 F.3d
936, 943 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (describing "disability"
as a "term of art under the statute[s]"). Finally,
Chenari argued that the University discriminated against him
for his ADHD and retaliated against him "when ...