First the complaint, then the money, now the public accolade: as we noted last month, student Kendra Velzen filed a complaint — and got a $40,000 settlement — after administrators at Grand Valley State University in Michigan declined to allow her emotional-support guinea pig to live with her in the dorm, even though she had a doctor’s note for it. Now the “Fair Housing Center of West Michigan has given … Velzen its annual Outstanding Effort by an Individual award. The group says Velzen was honored for promoting ‘equal housing opportunity for university students throughout the country.’” The center has a previous connection with the case, having assisted Velzen in her complaint. [AP/WILX]
Don’t you wish we’d heard more about this before the election, and not just afterward?
Breaking new ground, the U.S. Education Department is telling schools they must include students with disabilities in sports programs or provide equal alternative options. The directive, reminiscent of the Title IX expansion of athletic opportunities for women, could bring sweeping changes to school budgets and locker rooms for years to come.
Schools would be required to make “reasonable modifications” for students with disabilities or create parallel athletic programs that have comparable standing as mainstream programs.
[AP/Yahoo, New York Times, Michael Petrilli/NR ("The Obama Administration Invents a Right to Wheelchair Basketball")]
“A longtime French and Spanish high school teacher is suing the Mariemont school district, alleging it discriminated against her because she has a disability – she has a phobia of young children.” [Cincinnati Enquirer] More: Eric Owens, Daily Caller.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass. was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act because it failed to
* Continually provide ready-made hot and cold gluten- and allergen-free food options in its dining hall food lines;
* Develop individualized meal plans for students with food allergies, and allow those students to pre-order allergen free meals, that can be made available at the university’s dining halls in Cambridge and Boston;
* Provide a dedicated space in its main dining hall to store and prepare gluten-free and allergen-free foods and to avoid cross-contamination;
And much more. The college has also agreed to pay $50,000 to students affected by its earlier policies. [J. Christian Adams] Similarly: Hans von Spakovsky, FoxNews.
P.S. NPR report confirms demand from advocates for “gluten-free food [that] is prepared and served in dedicated areas.”
Take advantage of IDEA and the feds’ disapproval of test-accommodation flagging:
3. Classify your kid as having some sort of learning difference. Get your kid an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) early on so that they get unlimited time taking the SAT. The classification is not reported to colleges, so it’s just seen simply as a really high score.
You might think this is extreme, but in New York City parents get their kid classified as special needs in order to get a leg up getting into elite preschools. So doing this to get into an elite college seems fine. And look, it’s hard to get an IEP when your kid is two years from taking the SAT. Everyone wants an IEP then. It’s easy when you have a first-grader. Most first graders look like they need an IEP when they are in school because school is so uncomfortable for young kids.
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination by recipients of federal education spending and other programs, does not currently allow private litigants to sue demanding punitive (as distinct from compensatory) damages, nor do the courts entertain private suits complaining of “disparate impact” under it. Some trial lawyers and advocates of expansive discrimination law have long wanted to change that, and now Hans Bader of the Competitive Enterprise Institute is warning that there are efforts afoot to slip an expansion into law by attaching it to some “must-pass” piece of legislation. An effort by Democratic senators to attach it to the Defense Authorization Act appears to have fallen short, but it may be back as a rider on other bills, with serious courtroom consequences, Bader warns, for schools and colleges and also for doctors and hospitals.
The U.S. Department of Justice is taking the position that it violates the Americans with Disabilities Act for the Law School Admission Council to inform law schools that test-takers got extra time or other accommodations after lodging demands under the ADA. The ABA is siding with disabled-rights activists in calling for an end to test score flagging. [ABA Journal]
The U.S. Department of Justice has sued the Northern Illinois Special Recreation Association, saying that it is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act because it refuses to administer a medication for the relief of grand mal seizures. Two students wish to participate in the program who have a potential need of the medication on an emergency basis. “The medication, Diastat AcuDial, comes in a pre-filled syringe with a plastic tip and must be administered through a person’s rectum.” [Daily Herald]
Following a complaint under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Sacramento library system has agreed not to give patrons any more Nook e-readers, which cannot be used by blind persons because they lack text-to-speech capability [Disability Law] Disability-rights lawyers have taken the view that it is unacceptable for libraries to stock a mix of devices, some with text-to-speech and some not.
“After achieving a university entry rank of 99.95, winning fifth place in the state for chemistry and a place at the University of Sydney studying medicine, the former Abbotsleigh student Sarah Hui Xin Wong believed she could have done better in the [Higher School Certificate].” A New South Wales administrative tribunal has now turned down her complaint that she suffered disability discrimination by not being allowed further accommodations on the test, specifically a computer and extra time. But Australia does have loser-pays: “Ms. Wong has been ordered to pay some of the Board of Studies’ costs, including a proportion of the fees of the leading Sydney barrister Chris Ronalds, SC.” [Sydney Morning Herald]
In other Australia schools litigation news, a “former student who is suing Geelong Grammar School says she decided to seek damages after she failed to qualify for her preferred university course. Rose Ashton-Weir, 18, alleges Geelong Grammar gave her inadequate academic support, particularly in maths.” [Melbourne Age] More in update at The Age (“was perpetually disorganised and failed to attend classes, a tribunal has heard.”)
When the topic of testing accommodations comes up in the Disability Law classes he teaches, Sam Bagenstos is struck at the vigor with which his students push back, finding it unfair that so many of their colleagues request and obtain extra time on exams as an accommodation to learning disabilities or other intellectual disabilities, and expressing concern about the danger that some families will be better than others at playing the system. “I believe that the solution is to give all students more time. For this reason, I give take-home exams wherever possible.” Scott Greenfield isn’t satisfied by this answer at all:
…when it comes to being a lawyer, the desirability of providing accommodations is trumped by the ability to fully, competently and ethically serve clients….
Yes, there are things that lawyers do which don’t require speedy processing, but as long as a lawyer is just as entitled to try a case as write a contract, he must be capable of doing both.
More: Paul Horwitz.
In Jefferson County, Colorado, police have filed misdemeanor charges against a substitute bus driver for allegedly heading into a crosswalk against the right of way, hitting three middle school students. After questions were raised about the school’s having hired the driver in October — “He was convicted on a DUI in 1992 and he was going through alcohol rehabilitation treatment as recently [as] 2009″ — a spokesman for the school district cited the following: “It is illegal under state and federal disability laws to deny employment solely on the basis of a history of treatment for alcohol or substance abuse.” There is no indication in the article that alcohol was a factor in the bus accident. [KDVR via Brian Martinez]
Requiring a high school diploma of applicants for a given job may improperly screen out those with learning disability, according to the federal agency. I’ve got more at Cato at Liberty. Update: more from EEOC; Hans Bader, CEI.