If you flunk out of college you can always sue them...

Misericordia University in eastern Pennsylvania is getting some attention this week, though likely not the type that they might wish. One of their former nursing students is suing the school for failing to make accommodations for her disabilities, resulting in her failing a required examination twice and washing out of the program. But her lawyer is on the case.

Jennifer Burbella of Stroudsburg said school officials failed to abide by federal law…

Harry McGrath specializes in education law, representing students, families, teachers, and administrators.

“She has some disabilities and under section 504 of The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1973, you can make certain accommodations, not only in educational setting, but in the workplace, et cetera,” he said.

According to the federal lawsuit, Burbella asked for help including extended time to complete exams, and communication with a professor during a test. She said Misericordia officials did not follow through on those things, so she failed to pass the required course, not once, but twice.

According to her attorney, Ms. Burbella’s disabilities include, anxiety, depression, and stress.

I’d have to check with some younger students to be sure, but aren’t anxiety, depression and stress sort of the definition of exam time at school?

It seems that there are any number of disabilities which would require special consideration at a university, and accomodations can be made for them. (And frequently are.) Students who are visually impaired, for example, can have test given orally in most cases. Some lab courses may include work which can be performed ably by students with specific physical challenges, but they might require special equipment which should obviously be allowed. But I’m really not so sure about anxiety and stress. The student’s attorney is correct in saying that plenty of people who deal with those problems work in the medical field, but I think one of the assumptions is that they deal with those problems and still complete the required course work.

Look, I’m not saying that these aren’t real problems for some people. There’s an entire segment of the medical industry dedicated to helping people cope these days. But there’s also got to be a line drawn as to what qualifies as a “disability” for the purposes of the Americans with Disabilities Act. If everyone experiencing anxiety or stress is disabled, then most of the nation should probably be in some category of special assistance.

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