Kent State University has settled a federal civil rights lawsuit involving the denial of a an emotional support dog for someone with a psychological disability in student housing.
The U.S. Department of Justice says Kent State will pay a 145 thousand dollar settlement to two former students, along with a fair housing group, and the U.S. government.
The Justice Department says KSU will also adopt a new housing policy allowing support animals for students who need them for theraputic reasons.
Kent State officials say the consent decree "speaks for itself" and had no further comment.
(U.S. Department of Justice, news release) The Justice Department announced today that Kent State University (KSU) has agreed to pay $145,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit alleging that the university had maintained a policy of not allowing students with psychological disabilities to keep emotional support animals in university-operated student housing. Under the settlement agreement, which must still be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, KSU will:
• pay $100,000 to two former students who sought and were denied a reasonable accommodation to keep an emotional support dog in their university-operated apartment;
• pay $30,000 to a fair housing organization that advocated on behalf of the students;
• pay $15,000 to the United States; and
• adopt a housing policy that will allow persons with psychological disabilities to keep animals with them in university housing when such animals provide necessary therapeutic benefits to such students and allowing the animal would not fundamentally alter the nature of the housing.
"This settlement shows the department's continued and strong commitment to ensuring that students in university housing are afforded the protections of the Fair Housing Act," said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division. "Those protections include accommodations for students with disabilities who need assistance animals in order to have an equal opportunity to enjoy the benefits of university housing."
"Kent State University is to be commended for reaching an agreement that will benefit its students," said U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach of the Northern District of Ohio. "This agreement will help many people who are working hard to earn their fair share of the American dream."
The proposed settlement would resolve a lawsuit filed by the department in 2014. In that lawsuit, the department alleged that KSU violated the Fair Housing Act when, in 2010, it denied a request to allow a student with a psychological disability and her husband to keep an emotional support dog in their university-operated student apartment. The students, along with the Fair Housing Advocates Association in Akron, Ohio, filed a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD investigated the complaint, determined that KSU had violated the Fair Housing Act and referred the matter to the department. Under the proposed settlement, KSU has agreed to change its policy to accommodate similar requests going forward.
"Providers of on-campus housing have the same obligation to comply with the Fair Housing Act as other housing providers," said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD's Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "Today's settlement reinforces the ongoing commitment of HUD and the Justice Department to ensuring that individuals with disabilities are granted the accommodations they need to perform daily life functions."