Two college students alleged that they were subjected to transvaginal probes during their classroom training to learn how the medical procedure is performed.
On Thursday, a federal lawsuit was filed in Orlando against Valencia College and the three instructors who were involved. The lawsuit says that the students were threatened that they would either receive reduced grades or be blacklisted by prospective employers if they did not undergo the examination.
The defendants in the case are Maureen Bugnacki, Linda Shaheen and Barbara Ball.
The lawsuit says that the college, during orientation, “had a second-year student, Jennifer Astor (nicknamed the ‘TransVag Queen’) explain the medical diagnostic sonography program’s faculty believed that students should undergo invasive transvaginal ultrasound procedures in order to become better sonography technicians.”
It also said, “Valencia positioned these transvaginal probes as voluntary, but its actual policy and practice was that they were not.”
These vaginal ultrasound probes were conducted weekly. The lawsuit alleges that the students “endured these invasive probes without a modicum of privacy. Plaintiffs would disrobe in a restroom, drape themselves in towels, and traverse the sonography classroom in full view of instructors and other students.
“A student would place a condom over the probe and then apply generous amounts of lubrication to the probe. In some cases, the student would have to sexually ‘stimulate’ plaintiffs in order to facilitate inserting the probe into plaintiffs’ vaginas.”
It goes on to say that the students “experienced discomfort and embarrassment each time they had to endure this forced probing of their sexual organs.”
Barbara Ball, one of the defendants in the lawsuit, has been accused of making inappropriate comments while a student was submitting to the examination. “Defendant Ball’s comments can only be described as bizarre during some of these forced probing sessions,” the lawsuit says. “She allegedly approached one student … during a probing session and stated (she) was ‘sexy’ and should be an ‘escort girl’ (prostitute).”
The college said it was yet to be officially served, and so denied to comment on the matter. However, in a statement, the college addressed sonography examinations, including abdominal and vascular ultrasound.
“The use of volunteers — including fellow students — for medical sonography training is a nationally accepted practice,” the statement said. “Valencia College’s sonography program has upheld the highest standards with respect to ultrasound scanning for educational purposes, including voluntary participation and professional supervision by faculty in a controlled laboratory setting. Nonetheless, we continue to review this practice and others to ensure that they are effective and appropriate for the learning environment.”
Cindy Weiland, executive director of the Maryland-based Joint Review Committee for Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography, said that student-on-student testing occurs in many educational programs. However, she added, there is no data to support how invasive transvaginal probe is learned in college programs.
To secure the identity of the plaintiffs, they have been referred to as “Jane Does.”
According to Orlando Sentinel, Chris Dillingham said that dummies are also used in such programs. He added that the college’s written policies could have been different from the ones in effect.
“Policy is what you do, not what you write down,” he said.
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