Quinnipiac U. Agrees to Pay Student $32,000 in Discrimination Settlement

Quinnipiac University has agreed to pay a female student a $32,000 settlement as a result of discrimination and violations to Title III per the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The student was placed on medical leave by the  university after being diagnosed with depression. She is said to have been removed from her classes and the university without her consent even after she attempted to receive help for her depression by way of the mental health counseling available on campus.

Upon being placed on mandatory medical leave, the student requested that the university at least refund her tuition, which Quinnipiac refused to do. After getting nowhere with her attempts to work with the university and regain her status as an active student, the Connecticut Office for Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities aided her in filing an official discrimination complaint against the university.

The ensuing investigation into the college student’s claims did indeed confirm that she was discriminated against as a result of her depression. The investigation also found that Quinnipiac was negligent in their attempt to accommodate her condition with appropriate modifications to her coursework and on campus classes. There were no attempts made to allow her to work remotely when necessary.

U.S. Attorney Deidre Daly said in a prepared statement,”Quinnipiac removed this student from the university at a very vulnerable time in her life, and saddled her with a large student loan payment. Instead of removing the student from school, educational institutions must be equipped to manage and educate students who recognize, disclose and are treating their mental health disabilities.”

The official settlement agreement between the U.S. Government and Quinnipiac University says, “Quinnipiac University discriminated against the complainant by placing her on mandatory medical leave because of her depression, denying her the opportunity to participate in or benefit from the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations of Quinnipiac University on the basis of disability.”

The university claims that the allegations made by the student are false, but opted to agree on the settlement terms as they believe “that it is in the public best interest to resolve this dispute without engaging in protracted litigation,” as is stated in the settlement agreement.

Despite their denial of any discrimination, all findings pointed to a violation of Title III under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Title III specifically disallows any public entity from subjecting a disabled person (which encompasses mental health issues like depression) to discrimination.

The settlement states that Quinnipiac University has agreed to pay the student’s loan totaling $15,126.42 and also agreed to “compensate her for her for harm she has endured,” in the amount $17,000.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta said, “This settlement agreement reflects the critical role that educational institutions play in ensuring that students with mental health disabilities are afforded an equal opportunity to fully participate in all the colleges and universities have to offer. Under the ADA, universities like Quinnipiac cannot apply blanket policies that result in unnecessary exclusion of students with disabilities if reasonable modifications would permit continued participation; in many cases, such modifications can be as simple as allowing a student to complete coursework on a modified schedule.”

Daly also said, “We’re pleased that Quinnipiac has settled this matter, compensated the complainant and will implement a non-discrimination policy to help prevent this ADA violation from occurring in the future.”

Quinnipiac University officials didn’t take too kindly to the allegations made in the settlement or comments made by the U.S. Attorney’s office, as is evident by the statement made by the university’s vice president of public affairs, Lynn Bushnell.

She said, “The university is in full compliance with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In fact, our ADA standards exceed those of most academic institutions.”

It should be no problem completing the mandatory draft of a pledge to refrain from discriminating against students with disabilities whether they be of the mental health variety or other wise, as well as completing the sessions on mental health discrimination policies…Especially given the claims of having such exemplary ADA standards.

“Out of respect for the confidentiality of the student involved, we will not comment further on this case. We regret that a government agency did not show similar respect for the student and circulated this press release without ever contacting us,” Bushnell continued.

The student at the heart of the case told The Courant that she was pleased with how the settlement turned out and hopes to help other students try to get mental health assistance when they need it.

She said, “They shouldn’t be discouraged to get help if they need it. 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.”

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