Disability accommodations are arranged in academia to minimize obstacles in educational services. The requirement for disability accommodations should also be enforced in the context of the Title IX process by colleges and universities during the resolution process. In compliance with this law, an institution must provide assistance for disabled students who request services to report an alleged incident, to participate in the investigation and the adjudication process, and to abide by interim measures.
In deciding how to accommodate disabled students there is a grossly overlooked issue. Alongside an institution's duty to provide disability accommodations is the equally important responsibility to provide a fair process that gives both parties the same procedural opportunities. Institutions that mitigate Title IX matters involving disabled students have struggled with identifying how to render necessary accommodations that won't undercut the due process rights of the other party.
And in some cases, schools entirely disregard the need for accommodations altogether, as they fail to inform students of how to request them during the disciplinary process. This is what happened in a Title IX matter involving Saddleback College student, Marcus Knight. He has autism, cerebral palsy, and a shunt to relieve fluid pressure on his brain. He is described to have severely limited expressive language capabilities.
Marcus' mother, Aurora Knight, alleges that he wasn't allowed to defend himself against allegations in two Title IX investigations and that the school didn't even think to offer him accommodations. She claims the school lifted Marcus' suspension when they caught wind of her claims, but they didn't remove the sexual misconduct incidents on his record. She's raised more than half of the money (via GoFundMe) to cover the legal fees to challenge these violations.
Aurora explained her account of the allegations in a phone interview.
The first incident occurred in September 2017 when Marcus was in the Student Services office. He asked a female student working there if he could “fist bump” her. She agreed but consequently filed a Title IX complaint. In a week, Aurora and Marcus were scheduled to meet with the Disabled Students Programs and Services coordinator, who labeled the first bump as “inappropriate behavior.” Aurora claims her son did not “bump” anything other than the female's knuckles.
During the meeting, Aurora claims she asked the coordinator if he made any other contact with the female, asking if he had touched her, hugged her, followed her, tried to get her phone number, or exposed himself. She said the coordinator said no to each of these questions.
Soon after the meeting, Aurora says the student changed her story to say Marcus hugged her, sat very close to her, grabbed her with one hand, and with the other hand tried to get her hands onto his upper thighs. All claims that Aurora says aren't physically possible, given that the female student had been sitting behind a counter.
Marcus tried to apologize to the female student in the cafeteria in person, not realizing that this action is prohibited by interim measures. When he made his way towards approaching her, he claimed that “everybody was pointing at him” because she had been telling everyone he was “weird or dangerous.” Although he left the cafeteria before getting to talk to the student, another complaint was filed against him.
Throughout the process, Aurora says that Marcus wasn't given an opportunity to share his account of what happened, and he was ordered to delete evidence from his phone.
Marcus isn't the only person to have been given such orders and stripped of important rights during the Title IX process. Disabled students across the nation have told similar stories about the disadvantage they experienced in the process.
Nationwide Title IX Advisor
The only way to make sure your voice is heard and your rights are upheld is to retain a student defense attorney. National Title IX attorney Joseph D. Lento has the skill, experience, and expertise to help you preserve your entitled rights under Title IX and your school's policy. For a case evaluation or more information about his representation, contact him online or give him a call at 888-535-3686 today.