Mental Health & Wellness Coalition v. Stanford
Disability Rights Advocates initially brought this case on behalf of the Stanford Mental Health & Wellness Coalition and three students in May 2018. On July 16, 2018, with three new students joining the suit, DRA filed a motion for class action certification requesting that the court certify a class to challenge Stanford’s system-wide policies and practices that discriminated against students who were at risk of self-harm due to a mental health disability.
On October 7, 2019, this coalition of Stanford students and Stanford University reached a groundbreaking settlement agreement that will result in significant changes to Stanford’s leave of absence policies and practices, all of which will help ensure that students with mental health disabilities are not discriminatorily excluded from campus and housing.
This settlement agreement—the first of its kind—includes a rewritten Involuntary Leave of Absence and Return Policy, staff training, and increased staff to assist students with mental health disabilities with reasonable accommodations that may enable them to avoid taking a leave of absence. The revised policy provides for increased transparency, individualized assessments including deference to students’ treating providers, and reasonable accommodations throughout leave, appeal, and readmission processes.
At a time when colleges and universities across the nation are experiencing large increases in the prevalence and severity of mental health disabilities, many campuses have struggled to serve their student bodies.
This historic settlement, developed in consultation with students and experts in mental health and higher education, will make Stanford University’s leave of absence policies and practices a significant step forward not only for Stanford, but for colleges and universities across the country.