The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced a “landmark” consent decree with the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) to resolve allegations of “widespread and systemic” violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The allegations arose in a discrimination lawsuit filed by individuals with disabilities who sought testing accommodations for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). LSAC will pay more than $7 million in penalties and damages to thousands of individuals who applied for such accommodations on or after January 1, 2009, and a nationwide compensation fund will be established. In light of this development, higher education institutions may wish to reexamine their accommodations evaluation processes and ADA practices.
Under the consent decree, LSAC has agreed to end the practice of flagging the LSAT scores of individuals who receive the accommodation of extended testing time, which disclosed to law schools that students had received the accommodation. It also will lower the threshold for receiving accommodations by automatically granting accommodations for the LSAT that individuals can show they previously received on other standardized tests, such as the SAT or ACT.
The government intervened in a case under Title III of the ADA, DFEH v. LSAC Inc., which was brought on behalf of test takers in California who requested testing accommodations. The suit challenged LSAC’s practices regarding denial of testing accommodation requests, as well as the practice of flagging LSAT scores of individuals who received extended testing time. Yesterday, the DOJ filed a joint motion to enter the proposed consent decree, which must be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The consent decree also requires the LSAC to review its practices for reviewing and evaluating requests for accommodations, in consultation with a panel of experts.