by Scott Loftesness
Berkeley, CA (July 16, 2018) Three more students have joined a precedent-setting class action brought by Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) against Stanford University for violating the rights of students with mental health disabilities.
The lawsuit alleges that Stanford routinely responds to student mental health crises by barring students from campus and evicting them from on-campus housing, violating disability laws.
DRA, a national nonprofit legal center, today files an Amended Complaint and Class Certification Motion on behalf of this growing coalition to end the university’s discriminatory policies and practices.
The seven proposed class representatives have been similarly harmed by Stanford’s leave of absence policies and practices, and additional witness testimony indicates that this harm is system-wide. “Stanford applies a blanket policy and doesn’t take a student’s individual circumstances into account,” recent graduate Lark Trumbly explained, based on her and her friends’ experiences. “Stanford just tells you it’d be best for you to take a leave of absence, and here’s the form for you to sign.”
The Complaint says that Stanford has a practice of treating students who experience mental health crises as liabilities: pressuring them into taking leaves of absence and requiring immediate withdrawal from all classes and housing, all without an individualized evaluation of reasonable accommodations. Further perpetuating mental health stigma, Stanford requires students wishing to return to the University to write statements accepting blame and apologizing for the “disruption” they have caused the University community.
“Since filing the initial lawsuit in May on behalf of the Stanford Mental Health & Wellness Coalition and three Stanford students, DRA has received numerous inquiries from Stanford students and alumni who have wanted to share their stories and join the advocacy. We are pleased to be able to represent them in these new filings,” said Monica Porter, DRA Equal Justice Works Fellowship Attorney.
The Class Certification Motion requests the Court to certify a class consisting of all Stanford students who have a mental health disability and have been or will be subject to Stanford’s policies and practices regarding students at risk of self-harm, including students who have been deterred from participating in the programs and services Stanford makes available to its students because they are aware of these policies and practices and fear being subjected to them.
“I don’t want Stanford to think we’re too scared to stand up for ourselves and each other,” said Harrison Fowler, who is currently on a leave of absence and has joined the lawsuit. “I don’t want this to happen to anybody else.”
Plaintiffs do not seek monetary damages, but rather equal access to Stanford’s educational and housing programs and services. Their ultimate goal is to change Stanford’s leave of absence and related policies and practices.
To any other students who have had a similar experience, Fowler says, “you are not alone.”
Read the Amended Complaint and Class Certification Motion and find more information at http://dralegal.org/case/mental-health-wellness-coalition-v-stanford/.
About Disability Rights Advocates
Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), founded in 1993, is the leading national nonprofit disability rights legal center. Its mission is to advance equal rights and opportunity for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. DRA represents people with the full spectrum of disabilities in complex, system-changing, class action cases. In G.F. et al. v. Contra Costa County et al., DRA successfully ended the use of solitary confinement in Contra Costa County Juvenile Hall in an unprecedented victory for young people with mental health disabilities who were denied educational services and treated punitively. Thanks to DRA’s precedent-setting work, people with disabilities across the country have dramatically-improved access to health care, employment, transportation, education, disaster preparedness planning, voting and housing. For more information, visit http://www.dralegal.org.
Share Your Experience
If you have a mental health disability and have experienced discrimination at your college or university, visit http://www.dralegal.org/campusmentalhealth or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (510) 665-8644.
Equal Justice Works Fellow, Sponsored by Ebb Point Foundation