Law School Test Admin Must Defend ADA Claim

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Law School Admission Council Inc. must face charges it treats test-takers with disabilities unfairly, a federal judge has ordered.
     The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) filed suit against the council after receiving several complaints the organization fails to provide adequate accommodations to disabled test-takers.
     The department says the LSAC violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, the California Fair Housing and Employment Act and the Unruh Act. In their complaint, 17 disabled students taking the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), administered by LSAC, said they were forced to submit to “psychoeducational and neuropsychological testing after requesting extra time or other accommodations.
     The complaint also alleges disabled test-takers are required by LSAC to disclose whether they took prescription medications during evaluations of their condition. In addition, the department alleges LSAC “flags” exam scores of those who received accommodations for extra time.
     “LSAC includes a notation on an accommodated individual’s score report that the score was achieved under non-standard time constraints and excludes extended time scores when calculating its LSAT percentile rankings,” explained U.S. District Judge Edward Chen. “As a consequence, the fact that an individual received extended time on the LSAT is disclosed to all law schools receiving that individual’s score report.”
     The DFEH said the requirements are unreasonable, that those test-takers requiring accommodations are unfairly flagged, in effect measuring them on disability, not aptitude.
     “LSAC’s flagging policy unlawfully coerced and discouraged potential applicants from seeking reasonable accommodations or punished those who received accommodations,” the complaint states. It added that the LSAC “breached its duty to make the LSAT accessible to disabled individuals by requiring excessive documentation and by denying reasonable accommodation.”
     LSAC filed for dismissal of the case in its entirely, stating that the DFEH lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter, that it fails to state a claim and that money damages aren’t available pursuant to state law.
     They also claim that, “certain class-based claims cannot be pursued as a matter of law because DFEH failed to follow proper administrative procedure at earlier stages,” in the litigation and that, “doe defendants must be dismissed from the complaint because DFEH fails to plead facts regarding their alleged actions or inactions.”
     Of the department’s five separate claims, Chen granted LSAC dismissal on only one: the DFEH’s class allegations concerning the doe defendants. He denied LSAC’s request for dismissal on all other counts. In regards to the organization’s “flagging” policy, Chen agreed with DFEH’s determination the practice “‘necessarily announces an individual’s disability above all else,” and this practice ‘cannot be reconciled with the ADA’s mandate that testing entities must administer exams so as to best ensure that exam results reflect individuals’ skills and achievement level and not their disability.'”
     LSAC argued that the department’s claim concerning excessive documentation is “essentially” a disagreement, which cannot be converted into a cause of action, Chen didn’t buy it.”The court disagrees,” he said. “This element of the complaint alleges that LSAC’s documentation policies and practices both coerced and discouraged the real parties, from seeking accommodations on the LSAT, and punished those who did apply for accommodations by subjecting them to excessive and capricious documentation requirements. As such, LSAC’s motion to dismiss DFEH’s fifth cause of action is denied.”

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