Skip to main content

Student with disability:discrimination at college-what can we do?

Cherry Hill, NJ |

My daughter is registered with the disability office at her college but two of her professor's last year refused to grant her the accommodations she needs. In addition, the professor showed bias and even lost her work. Due to both of these factors, she is going to receive an F in the course. The school will not provide any options for removing the F, replacing the grade, or anything else. They want her to prove, in writing, that the professor wouldn't meet the accommodations and file a grade grievance. I think this is unfair to put the burden of proof on her, when she was discriminated against. if she wants to repeat the course, they want her to go back into this professor's classroom. That's ridiculous. What can we do? Actually, two of her professors last year granted accommodations.

I'm sorry, I'm very upset about this. Two of her professors denied accommodations but she was able to complete one of the courses successfully anyway.

+ Read More

Attorney answers 3


The concept of reasonable accommodation can be very challenging to implement for both the school and the claimant. It is not the privilege or the burden of the person claiming the right to reasonable accommodation to dictate the specific form or manner of that accommodation. There must be a dialogue and a meeting of the minds between the school and the student. If a professor does not believe that an requested accommodation is reasonable, most universities and colleges will not require that accommodation be allowed by the professor because the professor has the right to teach in the manner that the professor chooses based on academic freedom. Many professors are very alert to the fact that '"reasonable accommodations" must not be implemented so as to affect the competitive opportunities of other students. The bottom line is that issues of reasonable accommodation require long and well-documented collaboration with the school. A lawsuit should be a last resort as the opposition from a university will ordinarily be very skilled and well-funded. Your daughter's better option is to continue to work with the school to identify and refine the specific accommodations that she requires and to find ways to succeed notwithstanding her disabilities.

No legal advice here. READ THIS BEFORE you contact me! My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as if they were legal advice. I give legal advice ONLY in the course of a formal attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by joint execution of a written agreement for legal services. My law firm does not provide free consultations. Please do not call or write to me with a “few questions” that require me to analyze the specific facts of your history and your license application and prescribe for you how to get a State license. Send me an email to schedule a paid Consultation for that kind of information, direction, and assistance. My law firm presently accepts cases involving State and federal licenses and permits; discipline against State and federal licenses; and disciplinary and academic challenges to universities, colleges, boarding schools, and private schools. We take cases of wrongful termination or employment discrimination only if the claims involve peace officers, universities or colleges.


Although generally I agree with Ms. McCall, I disagree as to how to address the situation where professors refuse "reasonable" accommodations, particularly if your daughter is going to school in NJ. NJ, unlike most other states, has a very powerful anti-discrimination statute: The Law Against Discrimination (LAD). That law requires more of a college than even the ADA and Section 504 federal statutes require of colleges. Also, the supporting case law for the LAD is far more settled than law concerning 504 and the ADA even though they have been around for many years. Depending on the federal Circuit Court jurisdiction the college is in, the law requirements may be interpreted differently.

Nevertheless, proof is always a problem. If the request and denial is not in writing, then it is hard to prove that the request was made (other than your daughter says she made it). The law would certainly place the burden on your daughter to prove this. Undoubtedly, the college's enrollment contract speaks to an internal grievance process that you must go through before any attempt at litigation (to which the college's local state law may infer that such is her only litigation avenue, e.g. as per binding common law arbitration as interpreted in PA or NJ).


I guess the real question is were the accommodations requested reasonable. Contact an attorney in your area who practices education / discrimination law immediately.

This office does not represent you. This email does not form any attorney / client relationship. In order to form an attorney client relationship with our office, our office requires both a signed retainer and payment of any initial fee. Further, since we have very limited facts relative to your matter, you should not rely on any of the general advice set forth within our answer. I would strongly recommend that you speak with counsel regarding your issue.