May I Flunk a Student with a Disability?

Yes, it is possible to flunk a student with a disability. The secret centers on compliance with the civil rights laws which prohibit discrimination. These laws mandate access to education, not guaranteed academic success. When a faculty member has done all that is required, then flunking the under-qualified student is proper and lawful. Here's a compliance checklist:

  • Stand by academic standards and freedoms. Full and equitable access to academic programs serves as the foundation to standards and freedoms.

  • Communicate clear and concise expectations for performance to your students. Distinguish between essential and non-essential components of the course.

  • Allow reasonable program modifications. Modifications are changes in the way things are done and affect only non-essential aspects of a course. They are reasonable so long as course standards are not fundamentally altered.

  • Notify students of your willingness to accommodate. This can be done verbally during lectures and in writing within a course syllabus. Disability Services recommends both. One might say "Students with disabilities are welcome to discuss modifications with me."

  • Consult with the student and Disability Services coordinators. Any student should generate his or her own requests for modifications. Requests ought to be backed up by evidence of the need for modification. A logical link between the disability's functional limitations and the modification requested must be supported. Some students may present written documentation; others may not. Faculty should verify the existence of the disability and need for modification with the student, Disability Services, or another authority. Disability Services recommends that written verification come from our office. 

  • Permit students to use auxiliary aids and technologies which ensure access. Depending on the disability, students may use note takers, sign language interpreters, readers, scribes, and other auxiliary aids. Others may use recorders, computers, assistive listening devices, and other technologies for the same purpose.

  • When requested, provide alternatives to printed information such as Braille and electronic text. If Internet resources and other technologies are used, then they must be as accessible to students with disabilities as they are for other students. Use campus resources to create accessible instructional materials

  • Make academic adjustments in instruction. Some students need lecturers to face the audience while speaking. Others may need written or graphic information spoken aloud or described. Adjustments such as these may be made after the student requests them.

Grant test modifications. Depending on the particular rights of a student, it may be necessary to extend testing times, test in a quiet environment, and so on. Instructors may accommodate independently or use Disability Services test modification services.

Regard disability-related discussions and information with the strictest confidentiality. No professor has the right to destroy program access by ignoring confidentiality.

And there you have it. If the complience checklist above is satisfied, flunk the student because the student is not otherwise qualified. Although it is possible for any student to complain, discrimination must be proved when faculty have complied with the law. For more information, please contact Disability Services at 406.243.2243.