Guidance from the Office for Civil Rights
Some students may need to suddenly leave their classroom or may miss class frequently. The following guidelines are intended to help faculty determine if class attendance an essential or fundamental aspect of the course or program. The DRC encourages faculty to engage with their department chair as they analyze the centrality of attendance to their course.
If a student misses class due to disability, may the student be penalized?
The answer to that question will hinge on whether class attendance is truly essential and/or fundamental to the course or academic program. To make that determination, ask these questions:
- Is there classroom interaction between the instructor and students, and between students?
- Do student contributions constitute a significant component of the learning process?
- Does the fundamental nature of the course rely upon student participation as an essential method for learning?
- To what degree does a student's failure to attend constitute a significant loss to the educational experience of other students in the class?
- What does the course description or syllabus say?
- What is the method by which the final course grade is calculated?
- What are classroom practices and policies regarding attendance?
When assessing whether a request for accommodation of attendance alters an essential aspect of a course or program the following questions can be helpful:
- Is the absence a direct result of the student's disability?
- Does the faculty member consider attendance an essential aspect of the course?
- Does the course reasonably meet one or more of the above criteria?
- Is the attendance policy equally applied?
If, after making these inquiries, the college determines that attendance in a particular course is essential, the Office for Civil Rights will give significant deference to that determination.