The Law School Admission Council has sued the state of California over a new law that bars the organization from alerting law schools when applicants get extra time to complete the Law School Admission Test.
The California Legislature approved the legislation in September, with supporters arguing that the practice — also known as “flagging” — discriminates against disabled test-takers who need the extra time. The law took effect January 1 and will apply to scores earned during the February 9 LSAT sitting.
The council filed suit January 4 in Sacramento County, Calif., Superior Court, seeking to block its enforcement. The council contends that the law is unconstitutional because it violates its freedom of speech and does not apply to other testing entities. Attorneys for the parties were due in court for a hearing Wednesday.
“LSAC’s practice of identifying scores earned with additional testing time is based on decades of research that consistently has shown that scores earned with this accommodation do not perform their predictive function in the same way that scores earned with standard time constraints do,” LSAC President Dan Bernstine said in a prepared statement.
The California Attorney General’s Office did not respond to calls for comment.
Accommodating LSAT takers who claim disabilities has long been controversial for the council, but the issue moved to the forefront during the past year. The U.S. Department of Justice in the fall joined a class action against the council alleging that its testing accommodation policies violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. Additionally, the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates has urged the council to revamp the way it handles accommodation requests.
Test administrators acknowledge that their procedures for screening accommodation requests are more rigorous than those for nearly every other standardized testing organization, but they argue that close scrutiny protects the LSAT’s integrity as a predictor of who will succeed in law school. Their research shows that LSAT scores earned when takers had extra time were not comparable to scores earned within the standard time — although some disability advocates have disputed this finding.
Approximately 2,000 would-be test-takers seek accommodations each year, and the council grants some form of accommodation to about half of them. Extra time is the most frequently requested accommodation. About one-third of those granted accommodations suffer from learning disorders.
The council only flags the scores for test-takers granted extra time, and not for those granted other accommodations, including extra long breaks between test sections or a separate testing room.
The state law, sponsored by Assemblyman Ricardo Lara, also requires the council to explain its reasons for disapproving any request for accommodation and to “establish a timely appeals process.”
“To comply, LSAC would be forced to send out score reports with incomplete and inaccurate information for scores obtained with extra time,” the council argued in court papers. “Once the reports are sent, there would be no realistic opportunity to later retract or amend the information.”
The council faces fines of as much as $750 per violation of the law, according to its attorneys.
Karen Sloan is a reporter for The National Law Journal, a Legal affiliate based in New York. •