(Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

(Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – The U.S. Justice Department announced on Tuesday that it has reached a settlement with Brown University that ensures students treated for mental illness will be able to return to campus once their health care providers say they are ready to return.

DOJ found that Brown University violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by not allowing students who took medical leave for mental health reasons to return to school.

According to DOJ, between the fall 2012 and the spring 2017, “dozens of undergraduate students were denied readmission to Brown after taking mental health-related medical leave. These students met the requirements for returning to Brown, and each of the students’ treatment providers reported to Brown that the students were ready to resume their studies and participate in campus life.

“Yet, the department found that Brown denied the students’ applications for readmission, depriving these students of the opportunity to participate in and benefit from Brown’s educational programs.”

The settlement agreement protects the rights of students with mental health disabilities to have equal access to Brown’s educational programs, as required by ADA. It also requires Brown to make “reasonable modifications” to its policies, as follows:

Brown must:

— revise its undergraduate leave policies and practices to be consistent with Title III of the ADA;
— provide training on Title III of the ADA to all faculty and staff responsible for evaluating or making decisions about requests to take or return from leaves of absence;
— pay $684,000 to compensate the undergraduate students who were harmed.

According to a 2015 press report, at least one of the students denied readmission to Brown had attempted suicide in his first semester as a transfer student.

“Students with disabilities deserve access to equal opportunity to help ensure that they can achieve their educational goals,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division  said in a news release announcing the settlement.

“The Justice Department is committed to ensuring that colleges and universities do not exclude students on the basis of their disability or because they took time to receive the treatment they needed to thrive.”

“Universities play a critical role in fulfilling the ADA’s promise of equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities,” said Acting United States Attorney Richard Myrus for the District of Rhode Island. “Instead of imposing extra barriers on students seeking to return to campus from medical leave, universities must reasonably accommodate students who are treating their mental health disabilities.”

Myrus thanked Brown University for its cooperation throughout the investigation and its willingness both to address the issues identified and to compensate the students who were wrongfully denied readmission.

“The policies that Brown has agreed to implement should serve as a timely reminder to other colleges and universities to ensure that their medical leave policies must not discriminate against students with mental health disabilities,” Myrus said.