Friday, January 7, 2011

LSAT Accommodations, Lawyers of Ignorance and Becoming A McBadass

So you know how I always say that as parents of special needs children we expect that next shoe to drop just at the moment that everything seems to be going great? Guess what, our shoe dropped, actually I think it was more like several pairs of heavy-duty snow boots.

As I have written before collegeman is thinking of pursuing a legal career. His desire to repair the world, or as we say in Hebrew tikkun olam, has led him to the realization that the only way to truly have any effect is to get a law degree. Well let me rephrase that, the only way to have any effect, and still be able to buy food, clothe and shelter yourself while maybe having some money left over to enjoy existence is to have a law degree. (With all due respect to social workers, teachers, and community workers, your salaries suck.) So we signed collegeman up for the law school boards with the LSAC organization.

Now its much different then when hubby and I went to law school, everything is organized from one central point. This organization handles all the recommendations, transcripts and has a common application used by all the accredited law schools in the Untied States. It makes it so much easier to actually apply it is fantastic. Each college does have a pre-law advisor but I am truly not sure what he does considering that everything is run through this one company. Perhaps he tells students where to look and what courses to take undergraduate. However my son has decided to not take a law minor undergraduate but to study genocide and the Holocaust instead. We also know where collegeman will apply for law school. Since we live in an area with all levels of law schools, he will apply locally. Living at home is still going to be his best option. So I am not sure how collegeman will need his services but we will see next year.

In the meantime, I checked out the website to review their accommodations policy. It is really very straightforward. Truthfully if you have been doing the accommodations dance for all the years we have it is very simple forms and a copy of every document that you have on your child since the day they were diagnosed and even before that if anything exists. This is not difficult, for being the anal retentive attorneys that we are, we kept everything and even have it all categorized by year, importance, testing and IEP. In the end however, there is also no guarantee that the LSAC will grant your child accommodations of any kind.

But here is the glitch and why I say the heavy-snow boot has dropped: the LSAT service flags the tests of those that have been accommodated.  Initially I asked the customer service person how that isn’t illegal and a violation of civil rights? She of course couldn’t really answer me. She told them that the law schools make them flag the tests. So I called a local law school to find out what they have to say. They told me that the American Bar Association insists that the tests get flagged. Pass the buck is such an interesting game among so-called educated adults isn’t it? Basically no one has a real answer and they are all full of crap.

I spoke to the young lady at the law school, a very patient and sweet young woman. Played like I was the one taking the test:
I asked how do they figure in the fact that the test is flagged.
Oh no, she assured me they don’t pay attention to that at all.
….no offense but I don’t need to buy a bridge in Brooklyn either (didn’t say that just thought that).
I asked her if they have a disabilities office that I can speak to?
She told me that they don’t have one at the school and that the registrar office takes care of all accommodations at finals time, if you need extended time.
Does she know how many students with a disability are registered at the school?
No they don’t’ keep track of that.
Do they have anyone with service dogs at the school?
Not at the present but she knows they have had them before and those who need help getting around campus.

I thanked her for her time. Oh here is another issue, not only does the LSAC flag the tests of those with accommodations, but these tests are not included in the ranking of tests. So you are not listed as to the percentages and values of other test takers. Basically you are treated as a nonentity not worthy of existence.

While speaking to hubby we found some terrific law review articles (here, here ) on the subject of the flagging of tests and the basic ignorance of the legal profession. They actually have a quote from the American Bar Association saying that flagging of tests are important because being able to do things in a timely manner, at the request of clients, is essential to the functioning of a lawyer. Hubby, who is a partner in a rather large corporate law firm, openly guffawed at that reasoning. Having practiced law for over 25 years, hubby knows what is required to be a successful attorney, and what is needed to deal with clients. None of it is dependent upon getting extra minutes on a test. (Read the above law review articles for a terrific discussion of the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act as well as a discussion of the realities of the legal work place.)

The truth of the matter is that this issue has never really been litigated. The case that brought an end to the flagging of the SAT, GRE and the ACT, was never fully litigated but the outcome was the result of an out of court settlement. The American Bar Association and the American Medical Association refused to sign on and no one has ever done anything about that. I am not even sure that if we filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights Enforcement at the Department of Education that they would take the case. OCR has actually recently ruled that Civil Rights Statutes don’t protect Jewish students at college from bigotry and harassment so I am not even sure that they would have collegeman’s interest at heart even if the discrimination is based upon his disability. Then of course, if we filed a complaint, it would have to be under collegeman’ name and his name would be public in the lawsuit and defeat the purpose of him remaining anonymous. Talk about a Catch 22.

 OCR seems to have forgotten what Civil Rights are and what their mandate happens to be. They are lawyers after all and ignorance about mental health and learning disability issues seems to permeate the profession. I think that what has become very apparent is that those in charge of protecting the civil rights of persons in this country are without a doubt willfully ignorant of what a learning disability is and the purpose of accommodations, or quite frankly they are just out and out morons. So when hubby says to keep the boys’ names private and to make sure no one knows who they are and what their disabilities are he is not being paranoid but living in the real world.

In the meantime, we are going to read those law review articles and see if we can come up with an answer for this October LSAT for collegeman. Of course in our dinner discussion about it last night HSB came up with his own answer for collegeman. He told his brother it is time for him to be a McBadass, ala Teddy Roosevelt, and take the test without accommodations. Collegeman of course was horrified, but I told him that he might have to think about it and that in reality we have nine months to apply for accommodations anyway. Collegeman should try to study for the test this summer and see how he does on the timing and if he can write neat enough to handwrite the essay. It is after all multiple-choice and he does do well on these types of exams. The issue would be the essay, which the LSAT service says doesn’t get added into the score anyway. Truthfully if  LSAC is anything like the ACTs they would not grant him use of a computer anyway since he has use of both of his hands. (No kidding that is why the ACT would not grant HSB use of a computer, dysgraphia not withstanding.)

So off we go on another wonderful adventure into the world of ignorance and bigotry. I am getting tired of the way the world treats my children. It is tiresome that those who are considered the most educated among us are actually the most ignorant among us. It is tiresome that those charged with the protection of the most defenseless in our society, the lawyers charged with applying the civil rights laws and the Americans With Disabilities Act in this country are themselves in violation of these laws. (I don’t need a court of law to tell me the obvious.)

I have to say that one of the funnier moments in this odyssey, when speaking to the young woman at the LSAT testing service, she said flagging can’t be a violation of civil rights since everyone involved in requiring the flagging are lawyers. I guess she never heard of lawyers breaking the law, going to jail, getting impeached and getting disbarred too….

Meanwhile, whether collegeman likes it or not, he may have to do what his brother has suggested, become a McBadass or in teenage boy vernacular, just grow a pair…oy vey...

Until next time,