May I flunk a student with a disability?

Yes, it is possible to flunk a student with a disability. The University must be compliant with the civil rights laws which prohibit discrimination. These laws mandate access to education, not guaranteed academic success. When a faculty member has done all that is required, then flunking the under-qualified student is proper and lawful. Here's a compliance checklist:

  • Stand by academic standards and freedoms. Full and equitable access to academic programs serves as the foundation to standards and freedoms.
  • Communicate clear and concise expectations for performance to your students. Care should be taken to distinguish between essential and non-essential components of the course.
  • Allow reasonable accommodations. Accommodations are changes in the way things are done and affect only non-essential aspects of a course. They are reasonable so long as course standards are not fundamentally altered.
  • Notify students of your willingness to accommodate. This can be done verbally during lectures and in writing within a course syllabus. Disabilities Services recommends both.
  • Consult with the student and Disabilities Services. Any student should generate his or her own requests for accommodations. Requests ought to be backed up by evidence of the need for accommodation. A sensible link between the disability's functional limitations and the accommodation requested must be supported. Faculty should verify the existence of the disability and need for accommodation with the student, Disabilities Services, or another authority. Disabilities Services recommends that written verification come from our office. We furnish everything relevant an instructor needs to know.
  • Permit students to use auxiliary aides and technologies which ensure access. Depending on the disability, students may use note takers, sign language interpreters, readers, and scribes. Others may use tape recorder/players, computers, assistive listening devices, and other technologies for the same purpose.
  • When requested, provide alternatives to printed information such as Braille, computer electronic text, large print, and tape cassettes. If Internet resources and other technologies are used, then they must be as accessible to students with disabilities as they are for other students.
  • Make academic adjustments in instruction. Some students need lecturers to face the audience while speaking. Others may need written or graphic information spoken aloud or described. Adjustments such as these may be made after the student requests them.
  • Grant testing accommodations. Again, depending on the particular needs of a student, it may be necessary to extend testing times, change testing formats, test in a quiet environment, and so on. Instructors may accommodate independently or use Disabilities Services test accommodation services.
  • Regard disability-related discussions and information with the strictest confidentiality. No professor has the right to destroy program access by ignoring confidentiality.

Although it is possible for any student to complain, it is another matter entirely to prove discrimination when faculty have complied with the law. For more information, contact Disabilities Services at (231) 591-3057 or via email