• appoint a disabilities coordinator and develop and
publicize a grievance procedure for disability discrimination complaints.
As part of its policies, the college also should consider
establishing conditions under which a student may return to
campus. The OCR has provided that these conditions, like
the withdrawal or leave, must be established on an individual
basis. Examples of acceptable conditions for return might
include the student adhering to a treatment plan, submitting
periodic progress reports, and granting permission for
campus officials to speak with the treating professional. A
college may not make it a condition of return that the
student’s disability-related behavior not reoccur unless that
behavior creates a direct threat that cannot be eliminated
through reasonable modifications.
Outline Essential Functions
As a complement to a mandatory withdrawal or leave policy,
colleges also should consider developing statements regarding
who is an “otherwise qualified student” to participate in their
programs. Drawing from disability law in the employment
context, this exercise would require a college to consider its
core requirements and what “essential functions”—or skills and
abilities—a student must possess to participate in the program.
Some general categories of skills and abilities include:
• intellectual, conceptual, and integrative skills, such
as the ability to read, conduct research, and synthesize
• communications skills, such as the ability to communicate
orally and in writing with others;
• behavioral and social attributes, including the ability to
interact civilly with others;
• attendance and participation, including the ability to
regularly and punctually attend class; and
• time management, including the ability to meet deadlines.
This type of statement, in combination with a mandatory
withdrawal or leave policy, will help a college articulate
why a particular student should or should not return to
the college community.
On a final note, it is important to remember that trained
administrators must use their best judgment in issues of
campus health and safety, and that courts are hesitant to
second-guess decisions that are made in a reasonable manner.
It is also important to remember that, absent a pattern of
conduct, an OCR inquiry often can be resolved voluntarily,
informally, and without spending significant campus
resources. Accordingly, when balancing interests and options,
student health and safety must remain paramount.
Darby Dickerson is the vice president, dean, and a professor of law at
Stetson University College of Law, which has campuses in St. Petersburg
and Tampa, Fla. She writes and speaks on a wide variety of higher
education law and policy issues. Along with Stetson University Professor
of Law Peter F. Lake, she is co-chair of the National Conference for Law
and Higher Education, which is co-sponsored by Stetson and NASPA.
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