SAN FRANCISCO – The Law School Admission Council agreed to an overhaul Tuesday that, combined with $7.73 million in penalties and damages, will settle disability-discrimination claims.
The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing brought the original suit on behalf of California test takers, and the United States soon intervened in the case to ensure comprehensive and nationwide relief.
They alleged that 17 disabled students taking the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), administered by LSAC, were forced to submit to “psychoeducational and neuropsychological testing after requesting extra time or other accommodations.”
LSAC also allegedly required disabled test-takers to disclose whether they took prescription medications during evaluations of their condition, and it allegedly “flagged” the exam scores of those who received accommodations for extra time.
U.S. District Judge Edward Chen had refused in 2012 to dismiss the action, which alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the California Fair Housing and Employment Act, and the Unruh Act.
All parties filed a joint motion Tuesday for entry of a consent decree that requires the LSAC to pay $7.73 million in penalties and damages, compensating more than 6,000 individuals nationwide who applied for testing accommodations on the LSAT over the past five years.
The LSAC must also adopt comprehensive policy reforms and ends its practice of “flagging,” or annotating, LSAT score reports for test takers with disabilities who receive extended time as an accommodation.
Tens of thousands of test takers with disabilities will see the benefits of these changes for years to come, the Justice Department said in a statement.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels said the LSAC’s practice of flagging certain score reports was “stigmatizing” to individuals with disabilities who require certain testing accommodations.
Other components of the consent decree include a requirement that the LSAC “streamline its evaluation of requests for testing accommodations by automatically granting most testing accommodations that a candidate can show s/he has previously received for a standardized exam related to post-secondary admissions (such as the SAT, ACT or GED, among others),” the Justice Department noted.
It must “implement additional best practices for reviewing and evaluating testing accommodation requests as recommended by a panel of experts (to be created by the parties).”
Based in Newtown, Pa., the LSAC emphasized that it has not admitted to any of the allegations, which remain unproven.
It noted that the existing accommodations were negotiated with the DOJ in 2002.
“DOJ has been aware of LSAC’s practice of annotating – or ‘flagging’ – accommodated test scores for an even longer period (since at least 1986), and helped craft the language that informed test takers of LSAC’s score-annotation policy,” the council said in a statement “It was only in 2012, when it joined this lawsuit that the DOJ attempted to establish new rules by way of this enforcement action. LSAC believes it would have been more appropriate, and more productive for all concerned, for DOJ to change its views through a traditional notice-and-comment rulemaking that involved all parties who are affected by DOJ’s testing accommodation regulations. “
The settlement aimed to avoid the expense and disruption of protracted litigation, the council added.
“Effective upon entry of the consent decree, scores on the LSAT will no longer be annotated if they were achieved with extra testing time,” the LSAC continued. “This new procedure will be implemented despite the fact that professional testing standards support LSAC’s practice of annotating such LSAT scores.”
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