Stanford and Students with Mental Health Disabilities Reach Landmark Settlement

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Hoover Tower at Stanford University
Hoover Tower at Stanford University via Flickr


Settlement is most comprehensive ever to protect college students with mental health disabilities from unnecessary exclusion

Palo Alto, CA—October 7, 2019—A coalition of Stanford students and Stanford University have 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 experiencing mental health crises have access to appropriate accommodations and services and are not unnecessarily excluded from campus and housing.  Read the settlement agreement below.

Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) initially brought this case on behalf of the Stanford Mental Health & Wellness Coalition and individual students in May 2018.  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,” says Monica Porter, DRA Staff Attorney. 

“This settlement is incredibly important to us because it affirms to students that their mental health disabilities are not a burden on those around them,” says Caroline Zha, Co-President of the Mental Health & Wellness Coalition.  “We are excited and prepared to continue working with students and administrators to continue to improve resources for students living with mental health disabilities.”

Harrison Fowler, plaintiff, reports that, “thanks to this settlement, what happened to me won’t happen again.  I’m glad to be an advocate, and I am excited that future students will know they can have access to the accommodations they need.”


About Disability Rights Advocates

Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), founded in 1993, is the leading national nonprofit disability rights legal center.  Its mission is to advance equal rights and opportunity for people with all types of disabilities nationwide.  DRA represents people with the full spectrum of disabilities in complex, system-changing, class action cases.  Thanks to DRA’s precedent-setting work, people with disabilities across the country have dramatically-improved access to education, housing, health care, employment, transportation, disaster preparedness planning, and voting.  For more information, visit

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Monica Porter, Staff Attorney, Disability Rights Advocates