The U.S. Department of Education and Quinnipiac University in Connecticut have reached an agreement to settle allegations that the school violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by placing a student on mandatory medical leave due to her depression.
“They shouldn’t be discouraged to get help if they need it,” the student, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Hartford Courant. “I don’t want them to be fearful of being able to express themselves, to be able to get the help they need. This shouldn’t happen to any other student.”
The student, now a junior at a different four-year university, will receive $17,000 in emotional damages and $15,126 to cover tuition costs for the year she attended the school.
As a freshman in 2011, the student sought counseling at the school’s mental health counseling services. During one of the meetings, the student was transported in an ambulance and sent to a hospital in New Haven, Connecticut.
The student then received an envelope from the school, telling her that she was placed on mandatory medical leave.
“I was really shocked and hurt,” the student told the Courant. “I didn’t understand why I couldn’t go back to my room to get my stuff. Why was I considered such a danger when the hospital was letting me out? I felt kind of stupid and kind of like a failure. I felt like I had just ruined my entire life in one day.”
The Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities filed a complaint on her behalf with the Department of Education in October 2012.
In addition to compensating the student, the school has 30 days to create a new nondiscrimination policy against students with disabilities. It must eliminate the blanket mandatory policy leave policy and replace it with a more flexible system, allowing school officials to provide students with disabilities reasonable accommodations, such as allowing them to complete work off campus or online.
“Quinnipiac removed this student from the university at a very vulnerable time in her life, and saddled her with a large student loan payment,” U.S. Attorney Deirdre M. Daly said in a statement, according to the New Haven Register. “Instead of removing students from school, educational institutions must be equipped to manage and educate students who recognize, disclose and are treating their mental health disabilities.”
The Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities, and Disability Rights Washington, the publisher of this Galaxy website, are part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and members of the National Disability Rights Network.