Saturday, June 18, 2005

What Law Schools Are Doing to Accommodate Students with Learning Disabilities

Stone Are you involved in deciding whether a student qualifies (under the ADA) for accommodations?  Do you determine what those accommodations will be?  If so, you will find this (year 2000) article of interest.  Professor Donald H. Stone (University of Baltimore School of Law) explores the entire subject of accommodations for law students with learning disabilities.  (42 S. Tex. L. Rev. 19)

Relying on a study involving eighty law schools as well as case histories (several court decisions are presented and analyzed), Professor Stone discusses the most common procedures for properly accommodating law students.

In order to maintain fairness to the entire student body while making accommodations, Professor Stone suggests that proper identification and documentation of the disability must be performed by a qualified diagnostician.  He argues that too few schools have written policies and procedures for academic modifications for disabled students.

The article provides some useful quantitative benchmarks.  Example - "The majority of law schools that provide students with additional time to complete course examinations usually allow an average of one and one-half times the amount of time normally allowed for the exam." 

Professor Stone recommends that any student requesting accommodation should (1) be required to provide the documentation, and (2) submit the request to the Dean of Students, Disability Services Director, or other designated school officer.  Should professors be involved in the determination of whether/which accommodations are to be provided?  "In a significant majority of cases, professors have no input in the decision to provide an exam accommodation," he reports - and discusses the wisdom of this approach.

The article provides interesting statistical/geographical information. Example - "Comparing law schools by geographical region reveals a striking contrast in the role of the law professor in the decision to provide an academic modification in the course examination." 

Professor Stone includes comprehensive discussions of testing accommodations, testing formats, environmental control, alternative testing strategies, scoring accommodations, implications of test accommodations, and bar examination/admission issues.

This article provides valuable guidelines to any student unsure of the procedures for receiving accommodations for disabilities, and to academic support professionals who are interested in better accommodating their disabled students. (djt)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/academic_support/2005/06/what_law_school.html

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