Yale sues for ‘systemic discrimination’ against students with mental health disabilities


Yale University is being sued for what students say is “systemic discrimination” against students with mental health disabilities.

Several students and the advocacy group Elis for Rachael filed a federal class action lawsuit Wednesday in a Connecticut court alleging that the Ivy League institution treats students struggling with mental health unfairly and has not changed its policies to accommodate them.

One student, Alicia Abramson, said in the lawsuit that she was battling depression and was forced to withdraw in October 2019 during her sophomore year because Yale policy does not allow students to attend part-time, which would have given her the time he needed. continue school and take care of her mental health.

Another student, Hannah Neves, alleged that school officials “encouraged” her to withdraw during her junior year after she was hospitalized for an aspirin overdose, the lawsuit says. Neves, who battled depression, said the dean of her residential college, Surjit K. Chandhoke, Yale psychiatrist Heather Paxton, and director of counseling and mental health, Paul Hoffman, visited her in the hospital and told her that it would “look bad” if she was unintentionally removed.

Officials never discussed with her alternative accommodations that would have allowed her to stay at Yale while she sought mental health treatment, the lawsuit says. Chandhoke, Paxton and Hoffman are not named as defendants in the lawsuit and could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

Elis for Rachael also could not be reached. The advocacy group, which is led by Yale alumni and current students, fights for better mental health accommodations at the school.

While Yale declined to discuss the specific allegations outlined in the lawsuit, the school said Thursday that its policies are designed to protect the health and safety of students and that it has made changes in recent years to simplify the process for those returning from a medical retreat.

“The university trusts that our policies comply with all applicable laws and regulations. However, we have been working on policy changes that are responsive to the emotional and financial well-being of students,” the school said.

Administrator told student ‘it would be a liability,’ lawsuit says

The lawsuit says Yale’s refusal to offer accommodations violates federal law. Her policies are tougher “on students with mental health disabilities from underprivileged backgrounds, including students of color, students from poor families or rural areas, and international students,” she says.

The policies, according to the lawsuit, place “unreasonable burdens on students who withdraw for reasons related to a disability and discourage students from withdrawing from Yale because of a disability when that is appropriate.” According to the document, students who unsubscribe after the first 15 days of the term can only keep their health insurance plan for 30 days, while those who unsubscribe within 15 days have their insurance canceled. immediately.

For the duration of a student’s withdrawal, they are barred from campus, must give up their housing, could lose tuition and fees already paid, and can only be reinstated after a prescribed minimum time, the lawsuit says.

Neves said in the lawsuit that while he was in the hospital he asked Paxton and Hoffman if he could return in the fall of 2020, but was told he couldn’t due to policy. The lawsuit states that during her hospital stay she was involuntarily removed from Yale and told that she could only collect her belongings from her room with a police escort. She chose to have her mother clean her bedroom, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit further alleges that students have to go through “a daunting reinstatement process” in order to return, which includes submitting an application, a personal statement and letters of support.

Student Nicolette Mantica said in the lawsuit that she was hospitalized in October 2017 after “engaging in non-suicidal self-harm.” During her stay, Mantica was told that she would be withdrawn from school and told by a Yale Health administrator that “if anything were to happen to [her], [she] would be a liability to the university,” according to the lawsuit.

“While I was in the hospital, Mantica agreed to withdraw from Yale, even though she wanted to stay enrolled,” she says. “His understanding of her was that she, if she didn’t withdraw, she would be involuntarily withdrawn.”

The school told Mantica that she could be reinstated for the fall 2018 term, but that a reinstatement committee would consider how she spent her time away and whether she received appropriate mental health treatment, according to the lawsuit. She says that living in rural Georgia with her parents prevented her from taking courses at an accredited local university, one of the requirements for withdrawing students.

“Due to his poor experience with Yale and the obstacles imposed by the reinstatement process, Mantica decided not to return to Yale,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit says that because Neves was on a student visa, he had to return to Brazil after he retired, lost his insurance, and lost part of the tuition he had already paid. In order to return, he had to complete two courses at an accredited university, fill out a Yale application form, submit three letters of support and meet with Yale officials.

She completed the requirements, according to the lawsuit, but “experienced trauma from being involuntarily removed.”

The withdrawal and reinstatement process is under review

in a Statement of November 16Yale’s president said he has been reviewing his withdrawal and reinstatement process since September and has increased resources to support students.

“The need for student mental health and wellness support continues to increase, and Yale remains committed to responding to this need,” said Peter Salovey.

Hoffman and Yale University Dean Pericles Lewis wrote a op-ed last month in the Washington Post, following a newspaper article detailing similar allegations by Yale students and alumni. In the opinion piece, they said that only a small number of students take a medical withdrawal and that the reinstatement process is “routine.”

“Over the past five years, more than 90 percent of students who applied for reinstatement after medical withdrawal were approved on their first application; that percentage rises to more than 99 percent on a second application,” they wrote.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. You can also call the network, formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 800-273-8255text HOME to 741741 or visit TalkingSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.

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