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Expert Q&A

Can college professors ask their students if they received special education services in high school?

Dear Mr. Cohen,

Is it illegal for a professor or administrator to ask a college student if he or she had an IEP in high school or receives testing accommodations? If so, where can I find the legal documents to support this?


Dear Jacqueline:

As a general matter, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, it is illegal for employers to ask questions about a person’s medical or disability history or status prior to offering someone a job. There is no specific equivalent as to how educators conduct themselves, but there is a broad protection against discrimination on the basis of disability in higher education.

Further, the disclosure of disability is, by law, solely a right of the individual with the disability, not an obligation on their behalf. If the individual does not wish to disclose a disability, they should not be required to do so. Certainly, a requirement that a disability be disclosed creates an inference of discriminatory conduct with respect to how that information may be used.

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