Filing Complaints about Discrimination in the Classroom

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You've made sure a documentation letter is on file at your school, tried to negotiate appropriate accommodations, and discussed your needs and problems with the campus disability services office or counseling center. But if you still feel you're facing discrimination at school, it may be time to file a formal complaint.

Filing a Complaint under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Section 503

If your educational institution has a contract of more than $10,000 a year with the federal government, Section 503 of the Rehab Act requires it to provide reasonable accommodations for your documented disability. If you don't feel you're getting the accommodations you need, you can file a complaint under Section 503 by contacting the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs at (202) 219-9423 (voice/relay).

Section 504

If your school receives money from the federal government (including federal financial aid), Section 504 of the Rehab Act requires it to make "appropriate and reasonable" modifications to policies and practices. (It does not, however, require schools to develop special education programming for students with disabilities.) This applies to almost all public schools and many private ones.

To file a complaint under Section 504, contact the
Disability Rights Section of the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division at
(800) 514-0301 (voice) or (800) 514-0383 (TDD).

Filing a Complaint under the Americans with Disabilities Act

Title III of the ADA prohibits private and nonprofit entities, such as private schools and colleges, from excluding, segregating, or treating you unequally because of your disability. You must be able to physically access these places. They must provide reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures and use effective communication methods to inform people with disabilities. Courses and exams must be provided in an accessible place and manner, or alternative accessible arrangements must be available.

To file a complaint under Title III, contact the Disability Rights Section of the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division. You must file your complaint within 180 days (six months) of the date of the discrimination. You also do not need to wait for the Disability Rights Section to agree that you're a victim of discrimination to file a lawsuit in federal court. For details, contact the Disability Rights Section at (800) 514-0301 (voice) or (800) 514-0383 (TDD).

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1997, 1998 Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, Boston University

January 27, 2006

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