Chenoweth Law Group

Portland State student sues school in civil dispute

Public institutions are obligated to facilitate students of all disabilities. Failing to do so essentially breeds unequal treatment and opportunity and has been the center of many civil litigation in the past.

Just recently, in Oregon, a deaf student teamed with the state's Fair Housing Council to launch civil litigation against Portland State University. Arguing that the school made a habit out of discriminating against students with disabilities, the woman is seeking $1 million in damages.

The lawsuit stems from the 2010 school year where the woman argued she was deemed ineligible to live in a certain dormitory and instead banished to another where she was constantly harassed. Because the woman needed a service dog to aid her, she was turned away from one of the dormitory halls because it had carpeting. School officials must have feared the dog would damage or stain the carpeting. The student was assigned to another building where she claims fellow students harassed her because of her disability.

She said that, routinely, students would knock on her door. This would arouse the service dog, which would alert the student to the knock. Once the student was alerted, she would check the door but no one would be there. This practice carried on into finals week where it was crucial she remained well rested. Instead, the harassment ensured she only slept a few hours per night. She requested that school officials install security cameras to catch the culprits, but they refused.

She eventually was fed up with the treatment and moved out. If you feel you have been discriminated against and suffered personal injury as a result, consult with an attorney to learn what your rights and how you can protect those rights through filing a civil dispute.

According to the student's lawyer, the school has routinely discriminated against those with a service dog. In two other instances before this one, students with service dogs were tangled in housing snafus. The school faced a 2011 lawsuit where it then vowed to offer equal, carpeted housing for students with service dogs, but did not follow up accordingly.

School officials did not offer a comment on the case.

Source: The Oregonian, "Deaf student sues, claiming Portland State University didn't allow her service dog in some housing," Aimee Green, April 23, 2012

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