Stay up to date with Disability Compliance for Higher Education

  • Hear directly from disability service providers about how they've dealt with specific issues
  • Know your options for providing the most effective accommodations
  • Find out how the Office for Civil Rights is ruling on issues
  • Discover other institutions' programs for serving students with disabilities.
Use discount code DHEW5 and SAVE 20% SUBSCRIBE NOW!

Other Products of Interest

Campus Legal Advisor
cuts through the jargon to give you plain-English summaries of the latest higher ed court cases and regulatory rulings plus articles on what you need to know when creating and enforcing policies that affect your students and staff. Read More
Student Affairs Today
is part of the Jossey-Bass higher education newsletter series featuring innovative best practices for student affairs units plus lawsuit summaries to keep institutions out of legal hot water. It is available in print, online and as a PDF delivery. Read More
Psychiatric Disabilities
7/21/2014 12:00 AM
Image of student reading on tablet.
Students experiencing mental health issues now have easier access to needed resources. Credit: Peter Bernik/Shutterstock.com.

While existing research on the incidence of mental illness among college students may differ, one thing is clear: a big chunk of the students at your institution will experience mental illness at some point during their enrollment. After all, college students are dealing with major life transitions, including their environments and lifestyles, and academic, financial and social stressors.

That’s why Barbara Blacklock, the disability services program coordinator at the University of Minnesota, has devoted more than a decade to ensuring that students at her institution who are experiencing mental health problems have the support and resources they need.

Students experiencing mental health issues now have easier access to needed resources. Credit: Peter Bernik/Shutterstock.com.

While existing research on the incidence of mental illness among college students may differ, one thing is clear: a big chunk of the students at your institution will experience mental illness at some point during their enrollment. After all, college students are dealing with major life transitions, including their environments and lifestyles, and academic, financial and social stressors.

That’s why Barbara Blacklock, the disability services program coordinator at the University of Minnesota, has devoted more than a decade to ensuring that students at her institution who are experiencing mental health problems have the support and resources they need.

At her institution, 75 percent of students registered with her unit have invisible disabilities, and of those, 42 percent are dealing with mental health conditions, she said.

It all started back in 2002, when her unit received a grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education to identify barriers and opportunities with mental health disabilities. Hers was one of 11 partner institutions working on the grant.

As part of the grant work, she conducted three focus groups at her institution: one with administrators and faculty, another with campus and community mental health providers, and another with students whose primary disabilities were mental health–related. Student-participants were recruited through the disability services unit, with a $50 incentive for taking part in the focus groups.

Focus group participants helped identify some key barriers, along with potential strategies to tackle those problems. But student-participants also consistently asked that the findings of the groups not just sit on a shelf somewhere, but be shared across campus. And that’s just what Blacklock and her colleague, Betty Benson, did.

“We didn’t have any more grant money, so we just did what we could to disseminate our findings on our own campus,” Blacklock said. “As we did that, we also asked people across campus if they would like to work with us to reduce and remove the barriers identified through our work.”

Representatives from the counseling and mental health centers, faculty members, and staff from various different service units stepped forward.

One of the first things they did was search the institution’s website using keywords that students experiencing mental health issues might input, such as “depression,” “anxiety” and “suicide.” They were astounded that the things they expected to pop up, like disability services and the counseling center websites, never came up.

“Since that’s how students will likely try to access campus resources, we knew we needed to reach out to the upper administration and explain that this was a serious issue,” she said. “If people don’t know where to go or have the information they need, they’re going to feel really isolated.”

Following a meeting with the provost, the Provost’s Committee on Student Mental Health was born. The committee isn’t a behavioral intervention or crisis response team. Rather, its goal is to proactively remove barriers for students with mental health issues.

Following the meeting with the provost, Blacklock then began calling members of departments she and the provost thought should be represented on the committee, including the housing, police, e-learning and information technology offices, and the Academy of Distinguished Teachers, a group of the most distinguished faculty on campus. Ninety percent of the time, department directors offered themselves up to serve, rather than assigning duty to someone else, she said. Now nine years old, the committee has 24 members. Blacklock serves as co-chair.

The group worked collaboratively to develop a website, www.mentalhealth.umn.edu, that offers guidance and resources for students, faculty and staff members on a wide variety of issues related to mental health. The director of the IT department, then called the Office of Distributed Education and Technology, donated a Web designer from his unit to help make the project a reality.

When faculty or staff members call her in regard to situations involving students with mental health issues, she directs people to the website, explaining that they can find help on how to respond, plus resources to share with students. She also invites them to call her back if they have additional questions or concerns after reviewing the information on the site.

“Often, the reaction is ‘Oh my God, I didn’t know about this,’” she said.

The problem was that creating the site was not enough. Awareness of the new resource was needed. A good thing about having directors of different departments serving on the committee was that often, they could contribute money from their respective budgets to different projects. That allowed the committee to do things like hold faculty information sessions and hand out promotional freebies like pens and computer brushes with the site’s address on them. In the last few years, it’s trained more than 2,600 faculty and staff members.

The committee also launched the “Click + Win” campaign, held each fall. Posters about the website are placed across campus, and students are encouraged to go on the site and then answer several questions about it to be entered to win a prize. The first year, 15,000 participated for the chance to win a $1,000 award.

“There are some real consequences of not having a committee like this on campus,” she said. “For one, if a student with a mental illness goes untreated, he may end up leaving school, and that’s a seat in a class that’s no longer filled. And that student may request a refund, which is another financial impact on the institution.”

Plus, when students don’t have the right mental health resources at their fingertips, they may wait until they’re in crisis mode to seek disability services. When students understand what help is available and access it before reaching crisis mode, the time and energy that DS providers must expend to serve those students is significantly less.

Lastly, without appropriate mental health resources, students in emotional distress can act out violently, hurting themselves or others and creating a campus safety hazard, she added.

Committee’s effectiveness tied to work strategy

Committees can take a long time to reach decisions, never mind actually implement those decisions. But that’s not the case for the University of Minnesota’s Provost’s Committee on Student Mental Health. Since its inception, the committee has accomplished a lot, from creating a mental health website to organizing various awareness campaigns and training faculty and staff across campus on mental health–related issues. Blacklock says the reason for that is that people are assigned concrete tasks and held accountable for accomplishing them.

The committee meets for two hours a month in the morning. Someone takes minutes, which conclude with a summary of who said they will do what. The next meeting starts with an assessment of the progress on those tasks.

“This format really holds everyone accountable and keeps us moving forward,” she said. “And it works, which is pretty miraculous, given the range of offices and number of people involved.”

As word of the committee’s many accomplishments has spread, its prestige has grown, so that when individuals who serve on it leave for other institutions, finding their replacements is a breeze, Blacklock said.

For more information, you may contact Barbara Blacklock at black005@umn.edu.

Compliance
7/3/2014 12:00 AM
Image of students working together in a lab class.
Proposed ADA Amendments Act regulations list reaching, sitting and interacting with others — as these students are doing — as major life activities. Credit: Hasloo Group Production Studio/Shutterstock.com.

At the end of January, the U.S. Department of Justice proposed rules implementing Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act in light of the amendments made to the ADA. The proposed rules are quite involved. Nevertheless, I thought I’d go over some particularly significant items for institutions of higher education.


Proposed ADA Amendments Act regs list reaching, sitting and interacting with others — as these students are doing — as major life activities. Credit: Hasloo Group Production Studio/Shutterstock.com.At the end of January, the U.S. Department of Justice proposed rules implementing Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act in light of the amendments made to the ADA. (See www.ada.gov/nprm_adaaa/nprm_adaaa.htm.)

The proposed rules are quite involved. Nevertheless, I thought I’d go over some particularly significant items for institutions of higher education.

New major life activities added

What the DOJ essentially did was adopt the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulations implementing Title I of the ADA. That includes adding reaching, sitting and interacting with others to the list of major life activities.

In particular, the addition of interacting with others could significantly impact students in college because there are many disabilities that potentially limit the ability of a person to interact with others, such as anxiety, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and social anxiety disorder.

Immune, circulatory systems included

With respect to physical and mental impairments, the DOJ is proposing to add the immune and circulatory systems to those that may be affected by such impairments. It’s difficult to say what the impact of this will be on postsecondary institutions. Suffice to say, there are most certainly students in college with compromised immune systems.

LD listed under ‘physical or mental impairment’

Also, the DOJ is proposing to add a reference to dyslexia as an example of a specific learning disability falling within the category of “physical or mental impairment.” The reasoning behind that is that some entities mistakenly believe that dyslexia is not a clinically diagnosable impairment.

For instance, a Feb. 26 article by Ty Tagami in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted that some K–12 school systems are refusing to modify their programs and/or offer special services under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act on the belief that dyslexia is not a disability. (See www.myajc.com/news/news/local-education/parents-push-for-help-with-dyslexia/ncPLc/. To read the full article, you’ll need a one-day pass to the site.)

Keep in mind, however, that IDEA’s definition of “disability” is not the same as the definition of disability under the ADA and § 504.

The proposed use of the phrase “such as dyslexia” means that there is room for other learning disabilities to fall within the scope of covered conditions. In fact, the DOJ specifically stated that it fully expects compliance costs to go up with respect to making modifications to accommodate students with learning disabilities. Thus, if an institution takes a narrow view of learning disability, such as by excluding dyslexia, it may want to reconsider that approach now.

Fleeting conditions qualify for accommodation

The six-month transitory and minor exception that deals with a person being regarded as having a disability does not apply to the “actual disability” or “record of” prongs of the definition of “disability.” That is, the effects of an impairment expected to last less than six months can be substantially limiting and thus require accommodations like any other qualifying condition.

This also echoes the EEOC and gets behind the recent Fourth Circuit case of Summers v. Altarum Institute, Corporation, 740 F.3d 325 (4th Cir. 2014). I would expect that this particular provision of the proposed regulations would also be a game changer for postsecondary institutions because students frequently injure themselves and over time can recover quite nicely. Yet some of those injuries can be quite serious and limiting.

For more analysis on the Fourth Circuit decision in Summers, check out www.williamgoren.com/blog/2014/02/11/temporary-disabilities-ada.

Regulations would lower bar regarding whether conditions substantially limit major life activities

In determining whether an impairment substantially limits an individual in a major life activity, the DOJ has proposed that:

  • The term “substantially limits” must be construed broadly in favor of expansive coverage and is not meant to be a demanding standard. That means that institutions might have to be more careful as to just how much documentation they insist upon to establish a disability. Accordingly, if a student’s IDEA documentation is current or relatively new, you may not want to insist on new and independent documentation. You may also see that testing entities that have traditionally required extensive and precise documentation will have to revisit that practice.
  • Any impairment must be considered a disability if it substantially limits the ability of an individual to perform a major life activity as compared to most people in the general population. This is the same view as the one taken by the EEOC in its final regulations implementing the amendments to the ADA. The ADAAA specifically states that it is overruling Toyota Motor, Kentucky v. Williams, 534 U.S. 184 (2002), which held that for a person to be substantially limited in the major life activity of performing manual tasks, he must be severely restricted or prevented from performing that major life activity. Since DOJ frequently adopts EEOC standards, this definition of major life activity contained in the proposed regulations may be something that many institutions are already applying. However, in case they are not, the regulation would mean a significant change from their prior practice.
  • The primary object of attention in cases under Title II of the ADA should be whether public entities have complied with their obligations and whether discrimination has occurred. It should not be on the extent to which an individual’s impairment substantially limits a major life activity. Therefore, the issue of whether the impairment substantially limits a major life activity should not demand extensive analysis. Interestingly enough, only Title II gets a mention here and not Title III. What that means is that whether a person has a disability should not be the real issue anymore. Now, the focus will turn to whether institutions have made reasonable modifications to their programs and activities for students with disabilities.
  • For a student to be “qualified,” he has to meet the essential eligibility requirements of the program or activity with or without reasonable modifications to the program or activity. So, just what are the essential eligibility requirements of the program or activity will become a critical question. (See the April 2013 issue of Disability Compliance for Higher Education, pp. 4–5, for previous article on essential eligibility requirements.)
  • The determination of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity requires an individualized assessment. However, that assessment shall be interpreted and applied to require a degree of functional limitation lower than the standard that applied prior to the ADA Amendments Act. The comparison of an individual’s performance of the major life activity to the performance of the same major life activity by most people in the general population usually will not require scientific, medical or statistical evidence, though such scientific, medical or statistical evidence can be used where appropriate.
  • The determination of whether the impairment substantially limits a major life activity has to be made without regard to mitigating measures. The only exception is that ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses are considered in whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity. Ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses are those that are intended to fully correct visual acuity or to eliminate refractive error. This is a provision actually demanded by the amendments to the ADA. As I point out in my book, Understanding the Americans with Disabilities Act, Fourth Edition (http://apps.americanbar.org/abastore/index.cfm?fm=Product.AddToCart&pid=5150465), the provision makes sense because with the exception of ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses, everything else that ameliorates a disability doesn’t cure a disability, but rather it just compensates for it. Because this provision is a change demanded by the explicit statutory language of the ADAAA, all institutions should already be complying.
  • An impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active. This too is a change demanded by the explicit statutory language of the ADAAA. Thus, it should also not have any impact on the existing practices of institutions of higher education, since they should already be in compliance.
  • An impairment that substantially limits a single major life activity need not substantially limit other major life activities to be considered a substantially limiting impairment. This proposed rule states that case law holding otherwise is not correct. For institutions that were following this line of cases, this means re-evaluating that practice. Since this line of cases could be said to be an outlier based upon a reading of the ADA, most institutions were probably not following this line of cases anyway. Therefore, for most institutions, this particular provision should have little or no impact upon them.

I encourage everyone to read the proposed regulations. In many ways, these regulations are expected because it is important for the EEOC and the DOJ to be on the same page. But since the context is different between the DOJ, which has jurisdiction over Titles II and III of the ADA, and the EEOC, which has jurisdiction over Title I of the ADA, they impact situations differently.

Also, while there may be some revisions to these regulations, I don’t expect the final rules to be significantly different.

Universal Design
7/1/2014 12:00 AM
Image of a Venn diagram.
Graphic organizers like Venn diagrams help students better absorb content. Credit: Arka38/Shutterstock.com.

As professors, we can tell you that we have a tendency to present new knowledge verbally. We talk, and we ask students to listen, process, take notes, and remember all that we said. But what about those students who process information slowly or have difficulty making sense of the information we are spouting forth?

Graphic organizers like Venn diagrams help students better absorb content. Credit: Arka38/Shutterstock.com. The use of graphic organizers is a fact of life in the university classroom. Professors often rely on Venn diagrams to quickly illustrate the similarities and differences between concepts. They may also draw a line down the center of their whiteboards and list positive attributes on one side and negative attributes on the other side to visually explain the pros and cons of any given concept.

All of us have heard of graphic organizers, and most of us use them in some way, as do most professors. They can make content more accessible for students with learning disabilities. But do they?

As professors, we can tell you that we have a tendency to present new knowledge verbally. We talk, and we ask students to listen, process, take notes, and remember all that we said.

But what about those students who process information slowly or have difficulty making sense of the information we are spouting forth? Do instructors routinely consider students who have difficulty sorting that which is essential from that which is just interesting to know?

By helping professors understand just what a graphic organizer is and the benefits of using such organizers, plus directing them to some effective ones, you can help increase the chances of academic success for students with learning disabilities.

Understand how graphic organizers help

Defined as a visual representation of knowledge, graphic organizers structure information into patterns and use labels to help make relationships among discrete pieces of information clear.

One characteristic of many students who struggle academically is the inability to understand those relationships. These tools provide a concrete representation for structuring abstract ideas.

Graphic organizers can be constructed for exploring cause and effect, main ideas and details, sequences, decision-making processes, prediction making, and almost any other type of thinking and learning that students might engage in.

Get professors using simple organizers

You’ll likely be hard-pressed to find professors who don’t want to help students learn better. So provide them with strategies to do so by incorporating the use of graphic organizers in their classrooms. Below are some simple ones:

  • The Venn diagram, named for John Venn, has been in use for over 100 years. With overlapping circles representing sets of information and the relationships of the sets to one another, this tool has multiple uses in nearly every field.
  • The K-W-L chart is a great way to assess students before, during and after instruction. By dividing a page into three columns and labeling these “What I Know,” “What I Want to Know,” and “What I Have Learned,” the chart can help students and instructors alike keep up with what learning is taking place. The K-W-L chart can also be helpful for explaining complex assignments. Students can list what they think they know about the assignment, what they still want to know, and what they have learned after an in-depth discussion of requirements.
  • The time line or time sequence is another easy-to-use device. It can help students and instructors organize events chronologically.
  • The T chart can help visualize information when two sides represent pros and cons, reasons for and against, or two sides to an issue. The “T” serves as a divider, with information going on each side of the vertical line and headers above the horizontal line of the “T.”

Help instructors expand their toolboxes

The graphic organizers mentioned here are just some of the most common. There are many sources for finding usable, generic graphic organizer templates. Encourage instructors to grow their repertoire by pointing them to resources that can help them do just that.

For example, numerous graphic organizers and a brief description along with possible uses for each can be found at www.writedesignonline.com/organizers/index.html.

Another excellent resource is the Strategic Instruction Model™ Content Enhancement Routines™. This is a collection of 14 routines for use in classrooms, and it includes organizers for planning and leading instruction; exploring text, topics and details; and increasing performance. It also explains useful teaching concepts. More information on this series can be found at http://kucrl.org/sim/content.shtml.

In addition to these, there are create-your-own graphic organizer resources. Inspiration™ allows users to draw their own organizers from scratch. Learn more at www.inspiration.com.

Conversation With: Mary Reilly
7/7/2014 12:00 AM
Mary Reilly, a captioned media specialist for the University of Michigan, works with instructors to ensure students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing have access to captioned videos. She has presented in the past about how institutions can provide captioning, easily and inexpensively.

Mary ReillyMary Reilly, a captioned media specialist for the University of Michigan, works with instructors to ensure students who are deaf or hard of hearing have access to captioned videos. She has presented in the past about how institutions can provide captioning easily and inexpensively.

Q: How do you get instructors involved in ensuring that videos used in their courses are captioned?

A: When we contact professors to let them know that there are students enrolled in their classes who will need accommodations such as note takers, we also take that opportunity to ask if they have any videos they plan to use that need captioning. If so, I ask them to send me the videos and I then caption them.

We do have the occasional professor who wonders why captioning is necessary, or even finds it distracting and as a result doesn’t want to use it. For instance, if we’re talking about a film class, where the content on the screen is more important than what’s being said, objections are more likely to arise. But by and large, the professors I come into contact with recognize the importance of captioning and are very willing to cooperate.

The trouble I run into somewhat frequently is that instructors do not always know how to work with the technology. So even though I’ve provided captioning for a video, if additional equipment or steps are needed, they may just come back and say it didn’t work. So sometimes I have to find someone to install the needed equipment and/or train faculty members on how to use the captioning.

Q: Is the volume of captioning requests ever a problem? If so, how do you handle that?

A: This semester we saw a big bump in demand, and it was quite a surprise. But in the past, I could usually handle it all on my own pretty well. I have thought about hiring students on a part-time basis and training them on the captioning work for times when there’s simply too much work for me to do alone.

One thing that has always helped is that we contact professors as soon as students register for classes, so that we know with some lead time whether captioning will be necessary. That allows me to spread out the work.

Q: What advice would you have for disability services providers wanting to make captioning a priority?

A: In recent years, captioning has become easier to do. For instance, YouTube now makes it pretty easy to add captions to its videos. And Amara.org provides a really simple, step-by-step way of creating captioning.

However, there’s no one magic bullet. I’d recommend that institutions consider devoting some real resources to this, whether it’s contracting with a vendor or having someone in house specifically dedicated to captioning.

For more information, you may contact Mary Reilly at reillym@umich.edu.

Conversation With: Judy L. Shanley
5/8/2014 12:00 AM
Judy L. Shanley
Judy L Shanley.

Judy L. Shanley is the director of student engagement and mobility management for the Easter Seals’ Transportation Group. She believes college disability services providers should put greater focus on ensuring that the students they serve have access to a continuum of accessible transportation. Through Accessible Community Transportation in Our Nation — or Project ACTION — she works with communities and institutions to make that happen.

Judy L. ShanleyJudy L. Shanley is the director of student engagement and mobility management for the Easter Seals’ Transportation Group. She believes college disability services providers should put greater focus on ensuring that the students they serve have access to a continuum of accessible transportation. Through Accessible Community Transportation in Our Nation — or Project ACTION — she works with communities and institutions to make that happen.

Q: Can you tell me a bit about ACTION and how it can help colleges increase accessibility?

A: ACTION is a project funded by the Federal Transit Administration. It provides technical assistance to help communities, transportation agencies and schools ensure that individuals with mobility impairments or other disabilities that prevent them from driving have accessible transportation options.

This is an important issue for colleges and universities because if students with disabilities can’t get to and from campus, they’re not going to pursue higher education opportunities in the first place. And even when students manage to get to campus, they need access to transportation services so they can get to community-based service agencies and employment opportunities. Referring them to paratransit services isn’t always the best option, because those options are not inclusive and don’t allow for very much spontaneity in students’ travel.

So my goal is to foster collaboration between schools, communities and transportation agencies to help create the needed continuum of accessible transportation.

Q: How can college disability services providers help ensure such a continuum of accessible transportation is in place?

A: Disability services coordinators should be having conversations with those in charge of transportation services on their campuses to make sure that students can get around campus in least-restrictive kinds of ways.

They should also understand the accessible transportation infrastructure in place in their communities so they can educate students about their options. And they can reach out to their communities and local transportation agencies to bridge any gaps in service that may exist.

For example, I met one high school transition coordinator who, because of her service on a community transportation committee, convinced a local transportation agency to change one of its routes to accommodate students needing to get to different places.

I surveyed DS providers about this issue, and the majority said that transportation was not a problem for those they served. I don’t know whether that’s because students for whom transportation would be a challenge aren’t getting to higher education or because this is just not on DS providers’ radars.

Many didn’t really know about the accessible transportation services available off-campus. So I would encourage DS providers to think about transportation in terms of their own professional development. If they access resources to learn about transportation services in their communities, they’ll be better prepared to talk to students about available options.

For more information, you may contact Judy L. Shanley at jshanley@easterseals.com. Learn more about Project ACTION at www.projectaction.org.

Of Counsel
5/6/2014 12:00 AM

Colleges and universities can certainly enforce policies regarding student behavior that is disruptive and/or equals a direct threat. Steps they may take include enforcing withdrawal or suspension policies, requiring comprehensive mental health evaluations, and imposing special conditions regarding students’ right to participate in programs and/or activities. However, there are some common mistakes that must be avoided in balancing a student’s right to participate in the educational program with the right to safeguard others, as well as the integrity of programs, services and activities.

A Princeton University student has filed a lawsuit against the institution and seven administrators, alleging that he was evicted from his dorm and forced to leave school following a suicide attempt. He claims, among other things, that the university discriminated against him based upon his mental disability.

The facts of this case reflect a situation that causes great concern for postsecondary administrators, who feel unsure about what actions are legally appropriate when the behavior of students represents a threat to others or themselves.

Colleges and universities can certainly enforce policies regarding student behavior that is disruptive and/or equals a direct threat. Steps they may take include enforcing withdrawal or suspension policies, requiring comprehensive mental health evaluations, and imposing special conditions regarding students’ right to participate in programs and/or activities. However, there are some common mistakes that must be avoided in balancing a student’s right to participate in the educational program with the right to safeguard others, as well as the integrity of programs, services and activities. They include:

  1. Failing to conduct individualized assessments.
  2. In Letter to: Keystone College, No. 03092027 (OCR 2009), speculation regarding the erratic behavior of a student resulted in a demand that she undergo a psychiatric evaluation. The Office for Civil Rights noted that there was no consideration of current medical knowledge about the student and her disability or consultation with knowledgeable professionals in the relevant field. Further, the Judicial Board that issued the decision requiring the evaluation did not conduct a direct-threat analysis.

    It is impermissible to administratively withdraw, suspend, or take other adverse action against students believed to pose a direct threat prior to conducting an individualized assessment. Such assessments requires an analysis of the nature, duration and severity of the risk; a determination of the probability that potential injury will actually occur; and consideration of whether reasonable modifications will mitigate the risk. For action against a student to be justifiable, such assessments must result in a decision that there exists “a high probability of substantial harm…,” according to OCR.

    In Letter to: Frederick Community College, No. 03122138 (OCR 2013), the agency ruled that students should not be required to provide comprehensive mental health evaluations or adhere to special conditions regarding their right to participate in programs and/or activities unless an individualized assessment establishes the existence of a direct threat.

  3. Subjecting students to different treatment.
  4. In Letter to: Case Western Reserve University, No. 15-11-2024 (OCR 2011), a student who was believed to have a mental disability and judged to pose a risk of harm to others was required to have his treating physician submit answers to a five-page questionnaire when he sought to re-enroll following a leave of absence. The questionnaire included specific inquiries regarding diagnosis, treatment, medication, and the degree to which the student posed a risk to the well-being of others. OCR noted that it was impermissible to impose such a requirement on those with mental impairments or disabilities while students with physical impairments or disabilities taking similar leaves were not required to submit the form.

  5. Failure to consider reasonable modifications.
  6. In Letter to: College of Lake County, No. 05-10-2147 (OCR 2010), a student requested that he be provided a discrete location to run or pace near his classes. The college suspended the student and refused to permit him to return unless he signed a behavioral contract that required him to refrain from running or pacing. OCR ruled that the college’s policies should be revised to include consideration of modifications “that will sufficiently mitigate the risk posed by the student without fundamentally altering the nature of the service, program or activity.”

  7. Failing to provide due process.
  8. In Letter to: Marietta College, No. 15-04-2060 (OCR 2005), a college psychologist shared information about a student’s depression diagnosis and her history of suicide attempts with the dean of students, and the student was subsequently involuntarily dismissed. OCR ruled that students are entitled to due process (i.e., a hearing and a right to appeal) to ensure that they are not subject to adverse actions on the basis of unfounded fears, prejudices or stereotypes.

    Additionally, while institutions are entitled to take swift action prior to making a final determination when safety is an immediate concern, students must still be provided with minimal due process (i.e., notice of the proposed action, an opportunity to present information on her behalf, and the right to appeal). See Letter to: Southern Nazarene University, No. 07102019 (OCR 2010), and Letter to: Bethel College, No. 07112086 (OCR 2011).

  • LOGIN HERE

    Username: Password:
  • Content Directory

    DHE subscribers can now log in to browse all articles online!
    Browse Content
    Free Content
  • Free E-Alerts

    Sign up and get concise news updates from Disability Compliance for Higher Education emailed directly to you. It's FREE, so try it today! Start by entering your email address here:
    Send
  • Subscription Formats

  • Meet the Editor

    Cynthia Gomez
    Managing Editor

    Cynthia Gomez has been the editor of Disability Compliance for Higher Education since 2005 and has covered higher education for more than a decade. She has also written and edited pamphlets and books on a variety of disability-related topics.
Copyright © 2000-2013 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. or related companies. All rights reserved.