Nursing Students in Connecticut Sue for Invalidated Credits from Shuttered Stone Academy

Andrea Wickstrom, RN, PHN
Updated January 8, 2024
Edited by
    Nine former students of Stone Academy, a closed for-profit nursing school in Connecticut, sued state officials for invalidating their academic credits.
    Person signing legal documentsCredit: Getty Images
    • Former Stone Academy students and graduates filed a lawsuit against Connecticut state officials for invalidating credits they earned while at the now-defunct school.
    • Joseph Bierbaum, president and partial owner of Stone Academy, is accused of misusing student tuition for personal gain.
    • The state asked graduates not to use their nursing licenses until they took a refresher course months out.

    The latest legal action occurring in the wake of the Stone Academy nursing program’s abrupt closure last year includes nine former students filing a federal lawsuit against two Connecticut state agencies — the Office of Higher Education (OHE) and the Department of Public Health (DPH) — to contest the agencies’ decision to invalidate credits the nursing students earned during their time at the academy.

    The school abruptly closed its doors on February 14, 2023. Shortly after the closure, the OHE and DPH audited all student files retroactive to 2021. Connecticut officials initiated an investigation with Stone Academy in late 2022 over perceived compliance deficiencies.

    The investigation uncovered several shortcomings, including low NCLEX pass rates, underqualified faculty, high student-to-teacher ratios, insufficient documentation, and inappropriate clinical training. The state subsequently invalidated previously obtained student credits and withheld transcripts.

    However, according to attorneys representing students in the new lawsuit, those agencies went too far. According to David Slossberg, J.D., the students’ attorney in the current case, the state of Connecticut didn’t have the authority to take such actions.

    “I would go so far as to say that these agencies went rogue, and instead of helping, they multiplied the harm to our clients exponentially,” Slossberg stated. “These clients are stuck. They’ve done this work, they’ve gotten these credits, and the state, after the fact, has declared them invalid.”

    This lawsuit came months after the students and Connecticut Attorney General William Tong sued the school directly in 2023 for misusing student tuition and failing to provide adequate resources or sufficiently prepare them for nursing careers.

    After the state audit, OHE and DPH declared that 76% of more than 100,000 credits earned were invalid. Following the grim results, graduates, including those who had already passed the state board exams, had their licenses withheld or were asked by the state to sign a stipulated agreement — under the threat of investigations if they didn’t — to refrain from using their licenses until they could take a refresher course: A course that was months away.

    Stone Academy Lawsuit: The Latest Legal Action Following The School’s Closure

    Approximately 1,200 students were affected by the state’s decision.

    In response, on December 26, nine Stone Academy graduates filed a lawsuit against the state agencies in federal court for unspecified damages.

    According to the lawsuit, “Stone Academy students were deprived of the rights to their academic credits and degrees without due process of law and that the ‘defendants have made defamatory statements about the education and preparedness of Plaintiffs and their abilities to competently and safely practice as LPNs.’”

    Stone Academy Closure and Controversy: A Timeline

    Late 2022: OHE notified Stone Academy about potential compliance issues.

    January 2023: OHE and DPH discussed an academic audit with Stone Academy.

    February 14, 2023: Stone Academy abruptly closed.

    February 23, 2023: Attorney General Tong launched an investigation into the school.

    May 2023: DPH reported severe educational concerns with the practical nursing program. The state asked graduates to sign a stipulated agreement not to use their license until they took a refresher course.

    April 2023: Eight former students took legal action against the school.

    July 2023: State audit completed. Tong sued Stone Academy, Paier College of Art, and its owner, Joseph Bierbaum.

    October 23, 2023: Tong filed an amendment to the suit alleging financial, academic, and marketing misconduct.

    November 3, 2023: The students sued school officials for a prejudgement remedy of $20 million.

    December 2023: The students were granted $5 million from an OHE fund in a prejudgment trial remedy.

    December 26, 2023: Students filed a lawsuit against state officials for invalidating credits and withholding transcripts.

    September 2024: Jury selection begins for Students vs. Stone Academy.