Student Sues Private University Alleging Violation of ADA in Title IX Process

A student at a private university in New York recently filed suit against the university due to its alleged failure to accommodate his disability during a Title IX investigation.  According to the complaint, the plaintiff enrolled in the university through a program for intellectually and developmentally disabled students (“Program”).  The plaintiff alleged that he was notified of several complaints filed against him on October 6 and 7, 2022.  He was also notified that the university had determined he was “an immediate physical threat. . .” and was suspended on an interim basis.

According to the complaint, the plaintiff’s parents obtained counsel on his behalf and his advisor requested accommodations during the Title IX investigation process.  When the investigator contacted the plaintiff and his advisor regarding an interview, the advisor responded the plaintiff was “unable to adequately participate in an interview. . .” and would “require extraordinary accommodations.”  The plaintiff alleged that in subsequent communications, the advisor indicated that the plaintiff wanted to participate in an interview if he received proper accommodations.  The complaint alleged the advisor and investigator discussed the matter on the phone, but the plaintiff was still not offered or provided accommodations.

The complaint further alleged that, instead of granting accommodations or engaging in the interactive process, the university served the plaintiff with additional Notices of Investigation regarding more complaints and allegations against him.  According to the complaint, the investigator again contacted the plaintiff and his advisor about scheduling an interview although he acknowledged he had not been contacted by the university’s Center for Disability Resources regarding accommodations.  The complaint states the investigator subsequently advised the plaintiff he intended to proceed to the next step of the investigation.

According to the complaint, the advisor contacted the Director of the Center for Disability Resources, proposing specific accommodations, including being allowed to speak on behalf of the plaintiff.

The university ultimately agreed to certain accommodations in March, 2023, but according to the complaint, they were “woefully deficient” and did not address the plaintiff’s limitations.  The plaintiff and his advisor participated in a zoom meeting with a university Title IX representative, but the complaint alleged that in that meeting, it became clear the accommodations were “woefully insufficient to allow Plaintiff a fair and equal opportunity to participate in the Title IX process.”

The complaint alleged the university continued moving forward with the investigation, served the plaintiff with additional Notices of Investigation, and had even scheduled a hearing.

The plaintiff alleged the university discriminated against him and failed to accommodate his disabilities in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and New York State Human Rights Law. The plaintiff also requested a temporary restraining order enjoining the university from holding the hearing until the plaintiff receives adequate accommodations.

The case has been removed to federal court, but is still in the very early stages.

If the alleged facts set forth in the complaint are true, months passed between the initial request for accommodations and the university finally granting them.  Schools do not always protect the rights of accused students during the Title IX process.  If you have been accused of sexual misconduct, you need an experienced Washington Title IX defense attorney on your side, especially if you believe you may need accommodations due to disability.  Contact Blair & Kim, PLLC, at (206) 622-6562 for a consultation.


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