The United States Department of Justice and Old Dominion University settled a disability discrimination complaint brought by a graduate student who was retaliated against for requesting accommodations, according to a press release published by the department Wednesday. The university will pay the student $40,000 in damages, the release said.

After the student and the university had a dispute about her request for disability accommodations, ODU officials then “terminated the student’s working relationship with her professor-advisor, removed the student from the professor’s lab, separated her from ongoing research and withdrew her participation at a professional conference,” the release said. The student was forced to find a new adviser and “change her graduate course of study,” the release said.

“Students should never have to choose between their right to request reasonable modifications of policy for their disabilities and their academic success,” Gregory Friel, deputy assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division said in the release.

As a public institution that receives federal funding, Old Dominion is required to follow Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibit discrimination in educational activities on the basis of disability, a DOJ settlement agreement document said. The agreement affirms that Old Dominion will follow the laws and create a policy that expressly prohibits retaliation for disability accommodation requests and provides for disciplinary action against faculty and staff members who violate the policy.

Specific faculty and staff members at the university will also receive training about the disability discrimination laws, including the dean and associate dean of ODU’s Graduate School, department chairs and program heads for all graduate programs, staff members in the accessibility and equity and diversity offices, and all faculty members in the department of psychology, the agreement said.



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