California plaintiffs win ruling in MCAT suit

California's court says the state's disabilities laws apply to administration of the Medical College Admission Test.

By Myrle Croasdale — Posted June 20, 2005

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Plaintiffs in a discrimination case against the Medical College Admission Test will see their lawsuit move forward following a decision by California's Alameda County Superior Court. The court ruled that the Assn. of American Medical Colleges must apply California's general disabilities laws when evaluating requests for special accommodations to take the MCAT.

Stephen Tollafield, staff attorney with Disability Rights Advocates and one of the plaintiffs' attorneys, said the court had rejected AAMC's defense that it did not need to follow California's antidiscrimination laws, which are broader than federal laws. Tollafield said the plaintiffs would seek class-action status and that no court dates had been set.

The AAMC responded in a statement that it "believes that it is appropriate to apply a single, fair national standard when evaluating requests for test accommodations. In assessing such requests, the AAMC is guided by provisions in the Americans with Disabilities Act, which specifically apply to the administration of tests such as the MCAT. To the best of our knowledge, the same is true of all other national testing programs."

The AAMC contends that applying the state's broader definition of disability to MCAT examinees is unfair to those who take the test under normal constraints, to those who seek accommodations in other states and to medical schools that rely on the MCAT.

If the plaintiffs win, the court suggested that test results from California students with special accommodations could be flagged so that schools would know a different standard was used for these examinees.

In Andres Turner et al v. Assn. of American Medical Colleges, four medical school applicants with conditions that include dyslexia and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder were denied special accommodations.

Those accommodations included such things as a quiet room free of distractions and additional time to take the test.

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