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The Law School Admission Council has agreed to pay $20,000 — and to enforce a set of policies — to settle a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice alleging that the council violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by discriminating against physically disabled students who asked for accommodations when taking the LSAT. But the two news releases announcing the settlement — one from the Justice Department and the other from LSAC — are a study in contrasts. The government’s news release said LSAC “has agreed to revise its policies on test accommodations for persons with physical disabilities.” LSAC’s news release said, however, that the settlement “largely affirms current LSAC practices.” The government’s release said LSAC agreed to “pay $20,000 to individuals harmed by LSAC’s actions.” In contrast, LSAC’s release said it “also agreed to pay the government $20,000 ‘in the interests of an amicable resolution’ of the lawsuit.” The LSAC release included a comment from Philip D. Shelton, the president of LSAC, that “we vigorously contested that we had harmed anyone and therefore would not agree to pay any individual complainant.” Assistant Attorney General Ralph F. Boyd Jr. said in the government’s release, “This agreement opens the door for people with disabilities interested in pursuing the study of law.” The government’s release said its suit alleged that LSAC had violated the ADA when it failed to provide reasonable accommodations to four individuals with physical disabilities. It also said that some of the applicants who have cerebral palsy and requested extra time were asked by LSAC to undergo testing for learning disabilities. LSAC said in its release that the Justice Department was seeking “civil penalties, compensatory damages for four named complainants and other unnamed individuals, sweeping changes in the way that LSAC reviews requests for accommodations on the LSAT, specific accommodations for the four named individuals, and an order providing declaratory and injunctive relief.” But those demands, LSAC said, “have been abandoned in favor of today’s agreement.” LSAC’s release said the settlement “references a laundry list of pre-existing practices that LSAC promises to continue.” The government’s release said LSAC promised in the settlement to grant test accommodations to any candidate who “has been granted the same or comparable accommodations on other standardized admission tests,” and to give “considerable weight to the recommendation of the candidate’s doctor or other evaluator.” The government’s release also said LSAC promised not to require candidates to undergo unnecessary diagnostic or functional tests. LSAC said it “agreed to the content of revised forms for candidates and evaluators.” Both sides noted that the agreement was limited to how LSAC deals with requests for testing accommodations for those with physical or visual impairments and expressly excluded other disabilities covered by the ADA. But the government’s release was more specific, noting that the settlement “does not address LSAC’s handling of requests of accommodation from persons with learning disabilities, attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), psychological or psychiatric impairments, or other non-physical impairments.” In the LSAC release, Shelton was quoted as saying that “the most substantive modification to existing LSAC practice is our agreement to grant accommodation requests when candidates provide the required forms and can document that they have received the same accommodations on a previously administered standardized admission test.” “Although the ADA does not mandate such a practice, we believe it will have a modest impact and will not undermine the integrity of our process,” Shelton said. LSAC also said that while the case was settling, “neither party conceded their basic position,” and that the settlement “is neither an admission by LSAC of any violation of the ADA, nor an admission by the [Justice Department] of the merits of any of LSAC’s defenses.” The release from LSAC closed with a critical comment from Shelton. “Although LSAC is satisfied with the terms of this agreement, we would have preferred to see the Justice Department engage in rulemaking related to the ADA and admission testing, through an open and public process,” Shelton said. “Such a process could have resulted in better guidance for all testing organizations and for disabled test-takers, and a uniform regulatory approach for all. This litigation was expensive and time-consuming for both sides, and resulted in little such guidance,” Shelton said. The government’s release closed by saying that the Justice Department would monitor LSAC’s compliance with the settlement over the next five years — a fact that was not mentioned in the LSAC release.

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