Bazelon Center’s “Campus Mental Health: Frequently Asked Questions” Guide Helps College Students Navigate Mental Health Disability Rights

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Colleges and Universities Should Make Reasonable Accommodations for Students with Mental Health Disabilities To Help Them Fully Participate in University Life

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The Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, a national legal advocacy organization advancing the rights of people with mental disabilities, today announced that it has published “Campus Mental Health: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs),” a guide to help college students navigate mental health disability rights on their college and university campuses.

“Many students attending colleges experience anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems that can make it difficult for them to function during the school year,” said Maura Klugman, a staff attorney at the Bazelon Center. “We created this guide as a user-friendly resource for students with mental health issues to become more aware of their rights. For instance, students should be aware that they cannot be disciplined or punished for having a mental health disability.”

Nearly all universities are subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), either because they are publicly funded or, in the case of private universities, because they are considered public accommodations. Universities and colleges that receive public funding are also subject to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and colleges that provide housing must comply with the Fair Housing Act.

“Under these federal laws, a college or university may not discriminate against a student on the basis of their disability,” said Klugman. “This means that a college or university cannot exclude an otherwise qualified student from a program, or from facilities like dorms or libraries, because that person has a mental health disability.”

Moreover, Klugman explained, universities and colleges must provide “reasonable accommodations” to students with disabilities to help them participate in university life. “Reasonable accommodations may include extra time to complete exams, permission to take a leave of absence, access to assistive technology, the use of a private room, or allowing the student to keep a service or emotional support animal in campus housing,” said Klugman.

The “Campus Mental Health: FAQs” answers questions that students with mental health disabilities may face during their time at school, including:

  •     Which laws protect my rights as a college or graduate student with a disability?
  •     What kinds of accommodations are reasonable?
  •     How and when should I request an accommodation?
  •     What should I do if I am facing discipline for conduct related to my disability?
  •     What are my rights regarding medical leaves of absence?
  •     What conditions can my school impose on me when I am returning from involuntary leave?
  •     What can I do if my school is denying the accommodations I requested and/or imposing discriminatory disciplinary procedures?

The “Campus Mental Health: Frequently Asked Questions” is available as a free download at: https://tinyurl.com/MHFactSheet. More information about campus mental health is available online at http://www.bazelon.org.

About The Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law

The Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law is a national legal advocacy organization protecting and advancing the rights of people with mental disabilities. The Center promotes laws and policies that enable people with mental disabilities to live independently in their own homes and communities, and to enjoy the same opportunities that everyone else does. For more information, visit http://www.bazelon.org.

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Julie Rosenthal

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