Higher Education Institutions’ Treatment of Students Deemed a “Direct Threat” to Themselves and the ADA

Martin, Dana | May 11, 2017

As the rates of mental illness among college students continues to rise, colleges and universities are faced with new challenges in appropriately accommodating their students who struggle with these conditions. Unfortunately, misunderstanding and stigmatization of mental illness coupled with the fear of being the site of the next on-campus violent tragedy often leads schools to act adversely to the best interest of the student exhibiting at-risk behavior. This Note examines recent actions taken by schools against students demonstrating suicidal behavior in the context of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 along with response letters given by the Office of Civil Rights, ultimately concluding that current policies are often not compliant with the acts. Thus, this Note concludes by proposing policy solutions that would protect the at-risk students’ best interests without exposing schools to increased legal vulnerability.