Valencia College sued over claims it forced students to undergo vaginal exams
Two former Valencia College students said they were forced to undergo vaginal exams in front of their whole class as part of their ultrasound training, according to a federal lawsuit filed in Florida.
The women, who were not identified in the lawsuit, claim they had to submit to "invasive" ultrasounds of their reproductive organs for their Medical Diagnostic Sonography class.
Instructors at the Orlando, Fla., state school "browbeat" students into consenting, threatening to lower their grades or blacklist them from jobs at central Florida hospitals, according to the complaint filed Thursday. They even allegedly said the students should find another school.
At orientation in fall 2013, a second-year student nicknamed "the Transvag Queen" said she believed undergoing the pelvic ultrasound would make students better sonography technicians, according to the lawsuit.
"Valencia positioned these transvaginal probes as voluntary, but its actual policy and practice was that they were not," the lawsuit asserts.
The probes use sound waves to make pictures of the bladder, ovaries, uterus, cervix and fallopian tubes to detect problems with fertility and other issues.
Starting in March 2014, the plaintiffs "endured these invasive probes nearly every week … without a modicum of privacy," the lawsuit contends. They had to walk across the class in just towels "In full view of instructors and other students," it alleges.
Other students of all genders then practiced on them, first placing a condom over the probe and applying lube before inserting it, the suit claims.
"In some cases, the student would have to sexually 'stimulate' Plaintiffs in order to facilitate inserting the probe into Plaintiffs' vaginas," the suit says. "Plaintiffs experienced discomfort and embarrassment each time they had to endure this forced probing of their sexual organs."
The students say they complained to administrators about these "warrantless" probes but their concerns "fell upon deaf ears."
The students doubted an instructor's "motivations" for these probes because Barbara Ball approached another student during a probing session and said she was "sexy" and should be an "escort girl," according to footnotes in the complaint.
Valencia College spokeswoman Carol Traynor said the school "has upheld the highest standards with respect to ultrasound scanning for educational purposes."
"The use of volunteers — including fellow students — for medical sonography training is a nationally accepted practice," she said in a statement. "Nonetheless, we continue to review this practice and others to ensure that they are effective and appropriate for the learning environment."
Traynor told the Daily News she could not comment on the allegations because the school has not been served a lawsuit.
Linda Shaheen, an instructor named in the lawsuit, referred the Daily News' request for comment to Traynor. The other instructors, Ball and Maureen Bugnacki, did not immediately respond to media inquiries.
Chris Dillingham, the students' attorney, was not immediately available for comment.
The students resigned from the associate degree program. They seek damages for the money they spent on tuition and school expenses, the lawsuit says.
They claim their First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated and say they fear the practice will continue until the court intervenes.
The school's alleged conduct "would make any ordinary member of society stand up and proclaim, 'that's outrageous!'" the lawsuit argues.