Do Law School Admissions Tests Discriminate Against the Disabled?

by on October 16, 2012 · 0 comments

in Ethics,Legal News and Trends

Disabled individuals hoping to attend law school are not given a fair chance to prove they have what it takes, according to the Department of Justice. The agency has joined a class-action disability discrimination lawsuit against Law School Admission Council (LSAC), which administers the law school entrance exam.

Under the Title III of the American With Disabilities Act (ADA), “Any private entity that offers examinations or courses related to applications, licensing, certification, or credentialing for secondary or postsecondary education, professional, or trade purposes shall offer such examinations or courses in a place and manner accessible to persons with disabilities or offer alternative accessible arrangements for such individuals.”

The DOJ’s complaint alleges that the LSAC discriminates against disabled individuals who sign up to take the Law School Admission Test by:

  • Failing to provide testing accommodations so as to best ensure that test results reflect aptitude rather than disability,
  • “Flagging” (or annotating) accommodated test scores,
  • Making unreasonable requests for documentation in support of requests for testing accommodations,
  • Failing to give considerable weight to documentation of past testing accommodations received in similar testing situations,
  • Failing to respond in a timely manner to requests for testing accommodations, and Failed to provide appropriate auxiliary aids.

The allegation that has received the most attention in the legal community is the practice of “flagging” the test scores of disabled applicants. Although it does not seem to fit squarely under the ADA’s prohibitions, the DOJ contends that it is still illegal because it suggests “that examinees who exercise their civil right to the testing accommodation of extended time may not deserve the scores they received.”

The lawsuit, The Department of Fair Employment and Housing v. LSAC, Inc., et al., was originally filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. While it is rare for the DOJ to intervene in an ongoing lawsuit brought by a state agency, it seems particularly concerned by LSAC’s accommodation policies and procedures and the widespread impact they may be having.

“Credentialing examinations, such as the LSAT, are increasingly the gateway to educational and employment opportunities, and the ADA demands that each individual with a disability have the opportunity to fairly demonstrate their abilities so they can pursue their dreams,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department’s participation in this action is critical to protecting the public interest in the important issues raised in this case.”

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