Message text (PDF)
WASHINGTON (November 30, 2022) — Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Massachusetts) today sent a letter to the Department of Education (DOE) and Department of Justice (DOJ) emphasizing the need for stronger policies to avoid restricting students. access to higher education on the basis of their disability through the use of involuntary medical leaves of absence (“involuntary MLOAs”). Involuntary MLOAs require the student—often due to mental health concerns—to involuntarily take time off for most of the semester or school year and to be removed from campus. A lack of available support can expose students with disabilities to undue academic, financial, medical, and emotional burdens, which can interfere with a student’s ability to return to school and complete their education. In his letter, Senator Markey highlights the urgency of the mental health crisis and asks the Department of Education and Department of Justice to strengthen protections against nondiscrimination and ensure access to higher education for students with disabilities by issuing guidance to college and university administrations on involuntary MLOAs.
No student should be denied an education because of a disabilitySenator Markey wrote in his letter. “Not only do students lose access to higher education when their school mandates a compulsory MLOA, they may also lose access to health, social, and financial supports such as friends, professors, counselors, and any medical professionals who treat the student.”
“Any student who loses access to education because of their disability is one student too many, underlining the need for the Department of Education and the Department of Justice to collaborate on mandatory MLOA guidance for all colleges and universities to adopt.” the senator continued. “I am calling on the Biden administration to issue guidance on involuntary MLOAs and provide clarity to institutions on how to respond to student mental health crises.”
Specifically, Senator Markey asked the Department of Energy and the Department of Justice to respond in writing to the following questions by December 20, 2022:
- What consideration has the DOE given to involuntary money laundering as part of its 504 reform efforts?
- What data has the DOE collected regarding MLOAs, including involuntary MLOAs?
- What demographic disparities exist regarding involuntary money laundering, including, but not limited to, disparities based on race, ethnicity, gender, gender, or income?
- What steps, if any, have the Department of Education and Department of Justice taken to reform accommodation policies and MLOA policies to support students with disabilities?
- What efforts has the Department of Justice or Department of Education made to meet with leaders of student bodies, including student government associations, student councils, and graduate student associations on the issue of involuntary MLOAs?
- What efforts has the Department of Justice or Department of Education made to meet with students with mental health disabilities, including those who have participated in involuntary MLOAs, regarding this issue?
- What efforts has the Ministry of Justice or the Ministry of Education made to meet with members of the disability community on the issue of involuntary money laundering?
- What efforts has the Department of Justice or Department of Education made to meet with college and university leaders on the issue of involuntary MLOAs?
- What steps, if any, has the Department of Justice taken to provide guidance to colleges and universities that have previously settled ADA violation claims related to MLOAs to ensure that new policies comply with ADA and Section 504 protections?