Coronavirus: High school students sue to avoid AP test retakes after glitches

High school students who were blocked by technical issues from submitting their completed online Advanced Placement exams sued Wednesday demanding their work be counted. The executive who oversees the program said they likely would have to retake the tests instead.

About 15,550 of the more than 3 million timed tests taken at home during the past two weeks resulted in errors, according to data provided by the College Board.

Students have publicly shared their anger and frustration at watching the clock run out while they frantically tried to submit responses.

"I knew what the topic was," AP History student Matthew DeBellis said. "I was very excited. It was about manifest destiny."

But within the final seconds, like so many other AP students, the only destiny DeBellis had was dealing with a "submit" button that was not working.

"We didn't run out of time," DeBellis said. "The College Board website failed us."

DeBellis, a high school junior from Somers, and Sydney Brookman, of Manhattan, shared their frighteningly similar horror stories.

"Well once the timer got to one minute, I just started crying," Brookman said. "I was terrified, and I knew that I was going to have to redo it."

Their parents say they tried desperately to explain that their kids finished on time, but they say they got no help from the College Board.

"We got on the phone," mom Jennifer Brookman said. "We were on hold for about two hours."

"Literally two hours and eight minutes," dad Anthony DeBellis said. "And just no empathy."

Students who score well enough on the College Board's AP exams have a chance to earn college credit. The three-hour exams are typically taken on paper in school but were quickly redesigned as 45-minute online exams when the coronavirus shut down schools and put a halt to large gatherings.

College Board President David Coleman said he understands the frustration of those who couldn't submit their results but said no student has lost the chance at college credit.

"The worst recourse is that they will have to retest," he said. "We are looking at everything we can do to see if there's any submitted work that we can grade and score...The only thing that would stop us is not some bureaucratic inflexibility or a cold heart...We just have to work within the limits of our secure procedures."

The College Board is now implementing a backup system in which students can email responses, but that won't apply to students like DeBellis and Brookman who took the tests before May 18. And so now, that class action lawsuit seeks damages exceeding $500 million.

CLICK HERE for more information on the lawsuit.

In a statement, the College Board said, "an overwhelming 91% of students reported a desire to take the exam," calling the lawsuit a PR stunt, wrong factually, and baseless legally.

Many students have been told to re-take the tests in June -- one more aspect of the school year that didn't go as planned.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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