Discrimination in the Ivory Tower (Continued)

Last year I wrote of the Law School Admissions Council’s (LSAC) practice that discriminates against students with disabilities. LSAC had been flagging their LSAT scores for tests given with accommodations. (One example of common accommodation is providing extended time for completing tests.)

LSAC’s Discriminatory Practices

When providing test results, LSAC’s informed law schools that it could not vouch for the validity of any test given with accommodations.

LSAC also made applying for accommodations difficult and charges additional fees for providing accommodations that are required by federal law.

All too often, we think of disability advocacy as protecting younger children.  But, last year I was approached about mobilizing the disability community to oppose discrimination against older students who apply for accommodations to take the Law School Achievement Test (LSAT).  As a long time advocate, and on behalf of the students that the Edge Foundation supports, I was proud to successfully lead the effort to mobilize a letter writing campaign with ADHD-supportive organizations, such as CHADD , to urge the passing of AB 2122 and protect the rights of students with disabilities who apply for accommodations. The bill, drafted by California Assemblyman Ricardo Lara, prohibits LSAC from the practice of flagging LSAT test scores of students who receive accommodations during LSAT testing.  It also requires LSAC to streamline their process for determining  accommodation requests and to make that process more transparent.

California Legislation (AB 2122) Passed

On September 26, 2012 California’s Governor Brown signed bill AB 2122 into law and the disability community scored a major victory in support of testing accommodations.

Since the September victory, class action litigation was filed in the Federal Court in California against the LSAC for discrimination. In addition the US Justice Department opened an investigation into the potential violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Positive first steps and a victory for the disability community.

LCAS Fights to Continue Discriminatory Practices

Not surprisingly AB 2122 was fiercely opposed by LSCA which preferred to continue their practice of informing law schools that they could not vouch for the validity of scores for students who received accommodations during testing.

While the law was to become effective as of January 1, 2013, the LSAC has sued the State of California seeking to bar its enforcement of the law on several grounds:

  1.  The LSAC is claiming that the prohibition of accommodations flagging violates their right to free speech as guaranteed by the California Constitution.
  2. Furthermore, they argue it forces them to treat California test results differently than those from other states.
  3. The LSAC also argues that the legislation unfairly targets the LSAC alone while other high stakes testing institutions are unaffected.

As to the first two arguments, it seems logical that based upon the legislation, pressure from the American Bar Association and a growing trend, that the LSAC should just discontinue the process in all states.

Their last argument, however does shed light on the larger issues involved.  While the legislation in California was a victory for the disability community it was narrow in scope, both geographically and with respect to the larger issue.

If followed, the LSAT scores would join SAT and the ACT scores in no longer contain flags for accommodations. However a large number of testing institutions for graduate and other students still flag test scores and discriminate against students with disabilities.

Currently, the following testing agencies still practice discrimination by flagging test scores:

  • Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) Administers the LSAT
  • National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) administers the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE)
  • National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners (NBOME) Administers the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX) and Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Variable Purpose (COMVEX) Exams
  • National Council of Bar Examiners (NCBE) administers the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam for Attorneys (MPRE) COMLEX,
  • Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) Administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges
  • Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) Administered by the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC)
  • Dental Admission Test (DAT) Administered by the American Dental Association
  • Nursing Entrance Test (NET)  Administered by individual nursing schools

We believe the best way to fight discrimination is by shedding light on the practice, educating the public, and actively seeking change through mobilizing the disability community.  What is necessary is a national movement, led by a coalition of organizations such as the Edge Foundation, CHADD, and ADDA to seek federal legislation to prohibit this form of discrimination from all testing agencies.

Rest assured that we are working on a strategy to end discriminatory test reporting. Please stay tuned in the coming months for information about how you can support legislation that ends this discrimination and protects all students with disabilities. 

Robert M. Tudisco
Executive Director
Edge Foundation

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