Douglas K. Rush


This paper will review the statutory mandates of Section 504 and the ADA and examine the extent to which courts are willing to defer to institutional decisions concerning program modifications to accommodate learning disabled students. Courts have long recognized that academic decision-makers are entitled to deference, especially when their decisions concern issues related to educational programs. Courts must be vigilant, however, to properly weigh their role as the enforcers of Congressional legislation against the judicial policy of deference to academic decisions. Section I of this article will review the federal statutory and regulatory frameworks governing disability accommodations as they relate to institutions of higher education. Section II will address the potential conflict between essential program requirements in higher education and compliance with federal mandates. Section III will consider the federal courts' deference to academic decision-makers, particularly with regard to granting or denying academic accommodations for persons with disabilities. Finally, Section IV will examine two cases that demonstrate the limits of the federal courts' deference to academic decision-makers.