Decatur law firm representing GSU student wins case against university

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt November 12, 2015
View of (from L-R) the Student Center, Urban Life Building, and University Center at Georgia State University. Photo obtained via Wikimedia Commons

View of (from L-R) the Student Center, Urban Life Building, and University Center at Georgia State University. Photo obtained via Wikimedia Commons

A federal jury has ruled that Georgia State University discriminated against a student with a mental disorder.

The student, represented by Decatur firm Radford & Keebaugh, LLC, has schizophrenia. The lawsuit claims he was kicked out of campus housing and the university imposed ” ongoing restrictions on his eligibility for campus services.”

According to a press release from the firm, the university maintained that the student “posed a ‘direct threat’ to the health and safety of others.”

“In February of 2013, GSU’s Dean of Students’ Office required the student to undergo a ‘mandated risk assessment’ and evicted him from student housing, after the student revealed his diagnosis to a university counselor, but then left the counseling session after the counselor began to probe him about his symptoms,” the press release says. “As part of the ‘mandated risk assessment’ process, GSU required the student to sign medical releases to permit a full review of his treatment history, going back to his childhood. Upon completion of the ‘mandated risk assessment’ process, GSU notified the student that, in order to remain enrolled, he would be required to certify monthly that he was complying with all treatment recommendations, including the use of psychotropic drugs. The student had not been involved in any wrongdoing, had no disciplinary history, and had not caused any disruption on campus.”

In a statement to Decaturish, the university said it, “does not discriminate against people with disabilities of any kind. Our risk assessment process is in keeping with national standards.”

“We believe we took the right action at every level to protect the safety of the university community,” the statement from GSU says. “While we disagree with the judgment, we are pleased the jury did not find that the risk assessment procedure was discriminatory. We are reviewing the decision to determine our next steps.”

The press release from the law firm said the jury found the university had discriminated against the student, acting with “deliberate indifference” to his rights against discrimination. The jury awarded him $75,000 and GSU is under an injunction requiring the school to lift its restrictions barring the student from living in campus housing. The Board of Regents was also deemed liable for the student’s attorney’s fees.

“We hope this case will encourage universities not to punish students for disclosing a mental illness and seeking treatment,” attorney James Radford said in the press release. “Rather than improving campus safety, practices like this isolate those with mental illness and discourage them from seeking help.”

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