Most Frequently Asked Faculty Questions
1. What if a student identifies himself to me regarding an accommodation, but I have not received notification from the DSPS advisor?
You are under no obligation to provide an accommodation for a student who has not identified him/herself and provided acceptable documentation through appropriate channels. Please refer the student to the DSPS office on your campus. Although you, as the instructor, can alter assignments, requirements, etc. for any of your students, please be cautious about doing so in this situation because of the potential for legal complications.
2. What if a student is taking my course with all his listed accommodations and is failing anyway? Do I have to pass him?
Absolutely not. Students with disabilities are expected to fulfill the same course requirements and academic standards required of all students, with or without accommodations. The ADA is a civil rights statute, not an affirmative action vehicle. There is no requirement that a student with a disability is given preferential treatment only equal and fair access to programs. You should treat a student with a disability as you would any of your students. Follow your normal procedures for a student who is doing poorly in class. Make sure that your specific performance expectations are clearly delineated and communicated, and then track the student's performance, documenting each step.
4. If I refuse to provide an accommodation approved by the DSPS office, can I be sued or found personally liable?
Yes. Faculty members are not independent contractors. As referenced in several court cases including Howe vs Hull, U.S. vs Morvant, Smith vs the University of the State of N.Y., and Dinsmore vs Pugh, faculty members who place themselves at odds with institutional policies risk being held personally liable for any resulting ADA/504 violations.
5. If I feel that a given accommodation is not reasonable, may I appeal it?
Yes. You should address your concerns in a discussion with DSPS staff, not with the student. The accommodation must be provided, however, until the matter is resolved. Faculty input is both welcome and valuable.
6. Why am I not permitted to see a student's documentation?
Students' rights to privacy and confidentiality regarding information about their disability are protected under the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The very fact that a student has a disability is confidential information and therefore, can only be shared if the student gives written permission (in the form of a signed release of information). All students, however, are encouraged by DSPS staff to share information regarding their disability with a faculty member.
7. If a student is first diagnosed with a learning disability near the end of the term, must I let him or her re-take tests on which he did poorly earlier?
No. Our obligation to a student with a disability commences when the student self-identifies with appropriate documentation. Accommodations are not retroactive.
8. Who decides what accommodations a student receives?
The DSPS Counselors/Director has the authority and the background to determine accommodations based on the functional limitations specified in the documentation. The college is under no obligation to honor recommendations made by the diagnosing practitioner if such recommendations depart from national standards and guidelines.
9. Can I tell the other faculty members about a student and look to them for suggestions?
No, specific information about students' disabilities is confidential, and cannot be shared without a student's written permission. General information about psychiatric disability, academic adjustments, and classroom strategies can be shared, and issues can be discussed provided the student's anonymity is absolutely protected. Otherwise, refer to the DSPS for assistance and refer other faculty members there as well.
10. If there is a student in my class who appears to me to have a disability, may I ask him about it?
No. It is illegal to inquire if a person has a disability. However, you can make sure that every student in your classes knows that there are such services and where the office for those services is located. Many students choose not to disclose a disability for various reasons.
11. If a student with a disability is disrupting my class by his comments or behavior, what recourse do I have?
Students with disabilities must abide by the same MSJC rules and codes of conduct as any other student. Follow your regular procedure for disruptive behavior.
12. How do I deal with the students who resent the "special" treatment of the student getting academic adjustments (i.e. a longer time to take tests, having a different format for the test, being able to take breaks during the class)?
Please explain that the student with a disability has qualified for accommodations under state and federal law. The accommodations entitle that student to equal access to the education. The concept of "fair" is no more relevant in this case than it is with the accommodation of handicapped parking spaces for persons with physical disabilities.
13. What if a student in my class states that he always had accommodations, but I have not received a notice from the DSPS Office?
First, ask the student if he or she followed the Request for Service procedure, required by DSPS, to be completed every semester. If the student has done so, next call DSPS to see if the student is eligible for the accommodation.
14. How does the DSPS Counselor determine which accommodations are appropriate for a particular student?
The DSPS Counselor carefully considers the nature of the student's functional limitations, then selects the approved accommodations to the student's individualized need. There is no "cookie cutter" menu for any given disability.
15. What if the requested accommodations appear to compromise the integrity of my class or academic program?
While providing accommodation for disabilities, institutions of higher education are not required to lower academic standards or compromise the integrity of the school or program (Davis vs Southeastern Community College, 1979). Requirements that are essential to the program or course of instruction, or that are directly related to licensing requirements, need not be compromised. It is imperative that each program of study develop a list of essential competencies inherent to its successful completion. Please discuss any concerns you may have with the DSPS office.
16. Is there such a thing as unlimited time on a test for students with disabilities?
No. The most frequent time extension is time and a half, but double time may be warranted due to a student's slow processing speed or to the length of time required to administer or scribe the test. If increasing the amount of time for test completion allows a student to demonstrate his knowledge and not his test taking abilities, even longer time extensions might be granted infrequently. However, students without disabilities do not have unlimited time, so it would be unfair to give a special needs student unlimited time under any circumstances.
17. How can I learn more about disabilities in general or about particular disabilities?
The DSPS Office welcomes the opportunity to offer presentations on disabilities in general, or specific disabilities, to academic departments and staff. To arrange such a presentation, consult with DSPS, 951-487-3302.