Kent State University agrees to pay $145,000 to settle federal lawsuit over assistance animals
Jan 05, 2016 06:48 AM EST
The U.S. Justice Department announced today that Kent State University (KSU) would allow assistance animals in university housing and would pay $145,000 to settle a civil right lawsuit claiming that the university discriminated against students with psychological disabilities.
In August 2014, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development accused the university of housing discrimination for not allowing a student to keep a dog in campus residence, according to Cleveland website. The student, Jacqueline Luke, had sought to live with a dog following a psychologist's recommendation that the animal would help relieve her anxiety.
Luke has been diagnosed with panic anxiety and panic disorder since 2009 and was treated in the university's health service office. Luke requested a housing accommodation for an emotional service animal but the request was denied as the university banned pets for all students. In early 2010, Luke moved form the university housing.
The lawsuit said that the university refused to allow students with emotional disorder to have assistance animals in the university and treat them less favorably than students with other types of disabilities. Under the proposed settlement, KSU has agreed to change its policy.
The university has also agreed to pay $100,000 to its former students Jacqueline Luke and her husband, $30,000 to a fair housing organization that advocated on behalf of the students, and $15,000 to the U.S., if the settlement is approved in district court.
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Head of Civil Rights Vanita Gupta said that the settlement showed the department's continued and strong commitment to ensuring that students in university housing are afforder the protections of the Fair Housing Act, according to eNews Park Forest.
According to Washington Post, the Department of Housing and Urban Development's assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity Gustavo Velasquez said in a statement that the settlement reinforces the ongoing commitment of HUD and the Justice Department to ensuring that individuals with disabilities are granted the accommodations they need to perform daily life functions.
The issue has raised concerns from colleges across the country, as more students with mental illnesses are able to attend university, and as families are increasingly likely to ask for accommodations.
Kent State University's spokesperson said that university officials believe the consent decree speaks for itself and they have no further comment on the settlement.
The decree says an assistance animal does not necessarily to be trained, and is not limited to any specific of animal. The assistance animal is restricted to the university residence and may not accompany the resident to other areas without permission.