When Schools Fail to Support Students with Disabilities

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Sep 15, 2022 | 0 Comments

In addition to the normal course load, students with disabilities often have the added burden of advocating for themselves to get the support they are entitled to by law. As a 2022 case at Caltech demonstrates, schools sometimes fail to provide students with these accommodations.

Without necessary accommodations, a student may not be able to continue at the university of their choice, may have to limit their educational or career goals, or even be unable to complete the necessary classes for a degree. If you have a disability and your school is not offering you needed accommodations, knowing your rights and how an experienced legal team can help you negotiate the process is crucial.


Caltech, one of the most selective universities in the United States, also reports that approximately ten percent of its students are registered with the office that handles accommodations for students with disabilities. One of these students is Riley Brooker, a Caltech student from the United Kingdom.

Brooker has been diagnosed with ADHD, autism, fibromyalgia, anxiety, and depression. When she began to have seizures in April 2022, she requested a change to mandatory attendance policies. The school refused to allow an exception.

In response, Brooker wrote an article detailing her experiences for the school paper. A piece written by a member of the administration accompanied hers.

As of August 2022, Brooker is living off-campus and working on a Title IX complaint against Caltech. The experience has worsened her anxiety and depression. She says that she is unable to return to the United Kingdom for her safety.

Federal Law

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, colleges and universities are required to provide “reasonable accommodations” to students with disabilities.

In Brooker's case, she and the Caltech administration disagreed on what constituted reasonable accommodations. Brooker had requested that, due to her seizures, she be excused from mandatory attendance and in-class assignment policies. Caltech disagreed.

In an open letter in the school paper, a member of the administration explained that the school's view was that such accommodations should not “lower or substantially modify essential program requirements.” In Brooker's case, the school believed her requests would materially alter the course requirements.

The school had offered to pay for Brooker to fly back to the United Kingdom or to provide a loan to enable her to rent an apartment. She refused, and fellow students raised enough money for her to rent an apartment near the school's Pasadena, California campus.

One of Many

Brooker's case isn't unique. The pandemic has highlighted the lack of support for students with disabilities. “Reasonable” can be interpreted in a variety of ways, and schools can argue that an accommodation places an undue financial or administrative burden on the school.

One advantage of hiring a law firm that specializes in student rights and student defense is that they're familiar with the wide range of accommodations made for students across the country. An experienced legal advisor can work with your school to find a compromise that allows you to continue your education with minimal disruption. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or online.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients nationwide. Attorney Lento and his team represent students and others in disciplinary cases and various other proceedings at colleges and universities across the United States. Attorney Lento has helped countless students, professors, and others in academia at more than a thousand colleges and universities across the United States, and when necessary, he and his team have sought justice on behalf of clients in courts across the nation. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide, and he can help you or your student address any school-related issue or concern anywhere in the United States.


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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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