Hard of Hearing Law Student
Forced to Drop Out,
Santa Monica, CA, August 29, 2011 – Ms. Lori Ann Seifert King, a hard of hearing student who enrolled in Concord Law School of Kaplan University, filed a lawsuit alleging the school repeatedly and deliberately failed to make their program, services, and activities fully available and accessible to her and other deaf or hard of hearing students. Ms. Seifert alleges Concord failed to reasonably accommodate her hearing impairment over a course 15 months, before being forced to drop out, incurring tuition, costs, and most importantly, a lost opportunity to accomplish a life‐long dream. Ms. Seifert continues to pay off federal loans for a degree she never received. For Kaplan, a major subsidiary of The Washington Post Company, Ms. Seifert’s accommodations are alleged to be of miniscule expense. The defendants substituted their own judgment as to the proper accommodation, and failed to deliver this promise in a timely manner, causing Ms. Seifert to fall well behind in her studies, the lawsuit alleges. Additionally, online video and audio were never captioned, requiring Seifert to digest thousands of pages of transcripts in addition to already heavy law school reading. Due to these actions, which were part of a 15‐month series of events in which it is alleged Kaplan failed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other state and federal statutes, Ms. Seifert never passed the First Year Law School Exam and has been unable to complete her law degree. Prior to these events, Ms. Seifert had an undergraduate degree from Kaplan University, in which she earned a 3.99 grade point average with a concentration in Legal Studies/Alternative Dispute Resolution.
"Ms. Seifert is an academically distinguished student who balanced her career and the rigors of graduate school. But Kaplan undermined her ability to succeed by failing to include closed captioning for the videos and live online seminars that are an integral part of its curriculum. This basic accommodation would have enabled Ms. Seifert to pursue her studies on a level playing field and without any lost time or money. She has the ability and perseverance necessary to be an exceptional lawyer and it’s a shame she was denied the opportunity to pursue her dream," said Christopher Knauf of Knauf Associates, one of Ms. Seifert’s attorneys. “My lifelong dream was – and is – to become a lawyer, so I can be the voice of those people who have no voice. Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, two champions of civil rights whose tragic deaths led me, even as a child, to contact the families of these heroes and express my condolences, I recognize that all people – regardless of race, gender, religion or physical handicap – deserve equal opportunity. And yet, despite the memory of Dr. King and Senator Kennedy – and despite the legacy of Abraham Lincoln, whose words forever resonate in my heart –we still struggle for the most basic accommodations. My experiences with ConcordLaw School underscore this point: that Kaplan refused to follow the law and honor hundreds of emails seeking something as simple as closed and real‐time captioning for their classes – a service that, for them, would have been easy and inexpensive to provide. I hope this case will allow all hearing impaired students to have a voice – to raise their voices – and stop this violation of civil rights,” states Ms. Seifert.
Brave New World: The Reality of Online Education
This case further illustrates the increasingly significant divide between the overly ambitious promise of online education and the harsh reality of this medium. "With all of its resources, including an aggressive marketing campaign and defense of its perceived value in the marketplace, this case reveals the gap between Kaplan’s image and its less than flattering actions on behalf of students with disabilities. In fact, most brick‐and‐mortar law schools – even those schools with a fraction of the budget Kaplan has – manage to easily make the accommodations Ms. Seifert requires. Sadly, for all the talk about ‘A different school of thought,’ it is business as usual for Kaplan. Without these accommodations, online education cannot succeed among the very people, Ms. Seifert included, who deserve a chance to thrive, " says Eugene Feldman, co‐counsel for Ms. Seifert.
Knauf Associates and The Law Office of Eugene Feldman are private public interest litigation firms specializing in disability rights and education litigation, including Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), special education, employment, civil rights, and general educational and constitutional issues. Knauf Associates also serves as ADA consultants to businesses, school districts, and other entities seeking to train staff on disability awareness and sensitivity and update company policies. For more information, please visit www.goodlaw.biz and californiadisabilitylawfirm.com.