Conn. (WTNH) — Eight former Stone Academy students plan to file a lawsuit against the school and its owners after it shut down abruptly this year. 

Stone Academy closed its three campuses in February, leaving 850 students without transcripts or answers. 

Eight students are listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, but the law firm told News 8 it expects around 1,000 students to sign on. They’re seeking damages, saying the school failed to provide the promised education and training they paid for. The lawsuit says the eight students paid anywhere from $7,500 – $40,000 each to Stone Academy.

State offers free course for Stone Academy nursing graduates, warns of investigation for those who don’t take it

“We are going to fight hard for what we are owed. We were robbed and we are going to get back what we are owed,” said Terencia Ridenhour, a plaintiff and former Stone Academy student. “I don’t want an apology. I want what I am owed.” 

The lawsuit states that Stone Academy passed itself off as “a reputable, viable and well-established nursing school” but was cited for several violations, including having an exam passing rate lower than the state’s requirement. The complaint claims teachers expressed concern that the program was in trouble.

One teacher said, “the majority of her students ‘did not know how to take blood pressure, turn the diaphragm on a stethoscope or feel a pulse.”

Stone Academy was also cited for offering clinical programs not approved by the state. 

The lawsuit claims, “without adequate clinical preparation, recent Stone Academy graduates may not be prepared to care successfully for patients.”

The suit also states Mark Scheinberg, who owned Stone Academy until last year, was forced to pay $1 million as part of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice after Scheinberg allegedly failed to conceal a high rate of student loan defaults. The settlement also required Scheinberg to divest himself of ownership and control of Stone Academy. 

Stone Academy students attend fair to learn next steps

The complaint states that Scheinberg then appointed his stepson, Joseph Bierbaum, as Stone Academy’s President and CEO. He was in that position from March 2013 to March 2022. Bierbaum is also named as a defendant in the case. Scheinberg’s brother, Richard Scheinberg, is also a defendant. Richard Scheinberg is a trustee for Creative Career Trust, a family trust Mark Scheinberg funded with his interest from Stone Academy, according to the lawsuit. Gary Evans, the current CEO of the school, is also a defendant. 

Scheinberg is currently the founder and president of Goodwin University in East Hartford. 

The class action lawsuit includes any student who was enrolled between 2018 to February 14, 2023 or graduated between November 1, 2021, to February 2023.  

The Connecticut Office of Higher Education is still auditing transcripts to see what credits count and if they can apply for loan discharges and tuition refunds.  

Perry Rowthorn, a lawyer representing Stone Academy sent News 8 a statement: 

“The lawsuit ignores the fact that the Connecticut Office of Higher Education (OHE) and Department of Public Health forced Stone to close on short notice without legal justification and without following required processes to address exam passage rates or other concerns.   OHE refused to allow a teach out program for Stone students that would have avoided the disruptions alleged in the lawsuit.   OHE is now conducting an illegal audit to deprive students of their legitimately earned credits.  We expect plaintiffs’ lawyers to join us in demanding that OHE cease its audit and permit a teach out – as has been done in previous school closures.    We are reviewing options to ensure that the State and state officials assume legal responsibility for the harms they caused to Stone students that are improperly alleged against the school.    Stone Academy will remain focused on assisting its students and graduates in pursuing their nursing educations and licensure.    We will respond to the lawsuit more fully in court at the appropriate time but categorically reject its characterization of the quality of Stone students’ education and the circumstances of the school’s closure.”

The lawsuit will proceed in Connecticut Superior Court in Waterbury. 

The video below aired in our 10 p.m. newscast on May 3, 2023.