A case to watch by Ellen Tollen, Learning Specialist
College students with learning disabilities should closely follow a class action lawsuit recently filed against Boston University.
Learning disabled students contend that BU has violated federal laws that require educational institutions to provide "reasonable accommodations" to students with learning disabilities. Because Boston University has been a leader in providing support services to LD students, their policy changes are being carefully monitored both by students and by other institutions.
For years, students with learning disabilities have flocked to BU because of the excellent reputation of the Learning Disabilities Support Services Office and its director, Loring Brinckerhoff.
However, in December, 1995, hundreds of LD students received a letter from Provost Jon Westerling, informing them that the university was now requiring all LD students to submit new diagnostic evaluations no more than three years old. In addition, the university proposed a review of all accommodations currently being offered, including waivers and substitutions for certain requirements.
The university contended that many diagnostic reports were too old, unsubstantiated, and written by persons the university considered unqualified.
"I can say with certainty that we will continue to welcome, and provide services for, those with genuine disabilities," said Westerling. "But the system for granting accommodations was being abused."
The change in university policy triggered quite an outcry. Dr. Brinckerhoff resigned. Many LD students were outraged by the need for new testing and the possible loss of accommodations. A class action lawsuit was filed.
The university has agreed to a temporary standstill agreement that permits students to keep any accommodations they were promised before the university changed its policy. In January, the university hired a Learning Disability Specialist to review all new applications for accommodations.
The case is currently being heard in Boston.
If you would like more information, please call College of MarinÕs Learning Disabilities Program at 485-9345. We'd like to hear from you!
[Editor's note: see Both sides claim victory in Learning Disabilities lawsuit, in DisPatches volume 2, issue1, for the legal disposition of this case.]