UPDATE re: DOJ’s intervention in LSAC lawsuit (Blog #140)
A federal judge issued an order allowing the DOJ to intervene in a #disability discrimination lawsuit against the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) which expands the case from a statewide class action limited to California residents to a nationwide pattern or practice lawsuit.
The lawsuit (The Department of Fair Employment and Housing v. LSAC Inc. et al.,) charges LSAC with widespread and systemic deficiencies in the way it processes requests by people with disabilities for #testing #accommodations for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). As a result, the lawsuit alleges that LSAC fails to provide testing accommodations where needed to best ensure that those test takers can demonstrate their aptitude and achievement level rather than their disability.
LSAC’s alleged discriminatory policies include:
- Routine denial of testing accommodation requests, even in cases where applicants have submitted thorough supporting documentation from qualified professionals and demonstrated a history of testing accommodations since elementary school.
- Discrimination against prospective law students with disabilities by unnecessarily “flagging” test scores obtained with certain testing accommodations in a way that identifies the test taker as a person with a disability...a violation of the ADA.
- Disclosing otherwise confidential disability-related information to law schools during the admissions process.
According to the DOJ, “This systemic problem has serious consequences that echo throughout such individuals’ academic and employment careers...DOJ’s full participation in this case is an important step towards ending a long cycle of disability discrimination in standardized testing.”
When a person with a disability has a long paper trail of medical and professional documentation of disability and a long history of testing accommodations provided throughout their education journey, one has to wonder why requests for the same testing accommodations (i.e., extended time) would be denied.
When this happens, applicants are prevented from applying to law school and denied equal access to our nation’s educational opportunities.
The ADA says, "Any entity that offers examinations or courses related to applications, licensing, certification, or credentialing for secondary or postsecondary education, professional, or trade purposes shall offer such examinations or courses in a place and manner accessible to persons with disabilities or offer alternative accessible arrangements for such individuals."
This requires #testing entities to administer examinations, such as the LSAT, so as to best ensure that, when the examination is administered to a person with a disability, the examination results accurately reflect his or her aptitude or achievement level, or whatever other factor the examination purports to measure, rather than the individual’s disability.
Because of the importance of this issue as key to economic independence for some people with disabilities, I’m including the general #guidelines included in my previous blog:
When offering such exam:
- Offer the exam in a facility that’s wheelchair accessible with quiet and distraction free rooms or provide alternative accessible arrangements when requested.
- Review policies and procedures to make sure that only documentation about the existence of disability and how it limits the applicant’s ability to take the test under standard conditions is requested.
- Talk with the #applicant about possible test accommodations that can be provided in order to demonstrate his or her ability and achievement level without compromising the integrity of the test.
- Establish a procedure that is responsive to requests for alternate formats (e.g., oral presentations, projects, essay instead of multiple choice; written paper instead of oral presentation; demonstration of skills).
- Review the exam to ensure that it’s well-organized with concise instructions.
- Allow extended test-taking time if the test is not specifically measuring the individual’s ability to complete a task in a given time period.
This information should not be construed as “legal advice” for a particular set of facts or circumstances. It is intended only to be a practical guide for participants familiar with this subject. Users should seek appropriate legal advice tailored to address their specific situation.