Institutions must be extremely careful regarding the decisions they make concerning the qualified status of students with infectious diseases, as the cases below illustrate:
Gwinnett College Settlement Agreement (April 25, 2014) – A student enrolled in a Medical Assistant Program was required to complete a health questionnaire upon which she noted that she was HIV positive. During the first quarter, she asked a professor whether she needed to take additional precautions in a phlebotomy class because of her condition. Prior to beginning classes for the second quarter she was informed by the President of the College that she could not continue in the Medical Assistant Program because she was a safety risk to other students. The President further informed the student that had he known of her condition prior to admission she would not have been permitted to enroll in the program. The student was given the option of either switching to Medical Office Administration or Massage Therapy or leaving the college. The Settlement Agreement requires the College to remove questions regarding HIV/AIDS from the heath questionnaire; draft and adopt a nondiscrimination policy; provide training on Title III of the ADA focusing on HIV-related discrimination; and pay the student for the harm she endured.
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey Settlement Agreement (March 2013) – This case involved two students who were admitted to New Jersey Medical School and the School of Osteopathic Medicine. Student A submitted mandatory heath and immunization records that included information that he had Hepatitis B. His admission to both schools was rescinded based upon the information concerning his medical condition. Instead the student was offered the opportunity to take a one-year deferral with no guarantee that he would be admitted the following year. Student C was admitted to the School of Osteopathic Medicine with a scholarship. Upon learning the student had Hepatitis B, his admission was rescinded and he was give the same one-year deferral option as Student A. A committee composed of medical experts assessed both students’ conditions and concluded that both students were highly infectious and posed a direct threat to the health and safety of others. Unfortunately the committee’s conclusion that the students were a direct threat was based upon an erroneous belief that the students were required to perform “exposure-prone invasive procedures” in order to graduate. Neither of the schools required students to perform such procedures; therefore, they were not essential program requirements. Therefore, the Department of Justice concluded that the schools actions were discriminatory.
Drake College of Business, No. 02-11-2036 (June 2011) – A student who was HIV positive informed College administrators that he did not wish to have his blood drawn in a required Phlebotomy course. Based upon his disclosure, he was advised that because of his medical condition he could not draw blood from other students because it would jeopardize the health and safety of students and faculty. Therefore, he would not be permitted to participate in the program. Pursuant to a Resolution Agreement with OCR, the College was require to offer the student a opportunity to reenroll and give good faith consideration to his request for academic adjustments (including his request that he take the course without having his blood drawn); adopt compliant procedures for addressing students’ requests for academic adjustments, auxiliary aids and services; and provide training to all relevant staff on the procedures.
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