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Payan court case on hold

The LACCD continues to argue unintentional discrimination of disabled students.

By Katharine Ford, Special to the Star

Plaintiffs Portia Mason, Roy Payan and Paul Grossman, disability advocate and executive counsel for AHEAD, at a board of trustees meeting last spring. (File photo by Annette Lesure)

The latest Payan v. LACCD court hearing scheduled for last month was delayed until a date that is unknown at this time. The case, initially filed in the courts in 2016, accuses the district of violating the American with Disabilities Act and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

The district is appealing the 2019 decision by a federal judge that ruled in favor of the students. Disagreeing with the courts’ decisions, the district announced a plan to take their argument to the Supreme Court. After protests at the LACCD Board meeting in March 2022, the board decided against their plan and agreed to additional mediation sessions to resolve the dispute. However, mediation sessions from March 14, 2022, to May 16, 2022, failed to resolve the issue.

“They [LACCD] want to take it to the Supreme Court to have the Supreme Court strike down Title II Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA,” said plaintiff Roy Payan. “You’re going to completely eradicate Title II, section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA, and that will impact every person from Los Angeles to New York, from child to adult…. You’re going to set back disability policy 50 years, back to 1973.”

Payan believes that the LACCD plans to change their argument from unintentional discrimination.

“[They will argue that] it would have caused them an undue burden to provide me, as a disabled student, the equal opportunity they claim to provide all other students,” said the plaintiff.

The court did not set a specific hearing date at this time to resume the case.

While the original Payan v. LACCD verdict demonstrated that blind students did not receive the necessary accommodations for their education while attending LACCD campuses, some students reported positive experiences in receiving the required accommodations for their respective disabilities.

Of five students interviewed from three LACCD campuses, Los Angeles City College, East Los Angeles College and Valley College, two reported having a positive experience with getting the required accommodations. Two students, one from ELAC and one from LACC, reported having difficulty getting the necessary services.

Christina Cannarella, whose son, Johnny Hatch, is a student at Valley with multiple development and intellectual challenges, reports positive experiences as an advocate to acquire the accommodations Johnny requires. She is impressed with his professors’ receptiveness to accommodate a student with Johnny’s disabilities.

A qualitative study in the “Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability” found that graduation rates for college students with disabilities are significantly lower than students without disabilities. Graduation rates for students with disabilities are 29 percent at four-year universities, 30 percent at two-year colleges and 55 percent at vocational or technical schools.

Payan v LACCD is one case in which students with disabilities did not receive accommodations as required by law. While the problem is not limited to Los Angeles or California, the district does not take responsibility for the discrimination perpetrated on some students.


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