Does the Americans With Disabilities Act require accommodations for university students whose disability prevents them from behaving ethically?

Does it forbid punishment of unethical behavior which is caused by a disability?

  • 11
    Is this a question or a troll?
    – Buffy
    Aug 1, 2020 at 11:46
  • 10
    I’m voting to close this question because I don't think it is serious, but rather bait for controversy.
    – Buffy
    Aug 1, 2020 at 11:49
  • 3
    @Buffy I thought the answer would be "No" and that nobody would debate that. Am I wrong? Excepting maybe one person. Aug 1, 2020 at 11:49
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    @Buffy the OP’s motivation for asking the question is irrelevant. It’s a valid, well-posed question (and one that I suspect has a clear and unambiguous answer) that’s clearly in the scope of this site (I personally would be very interested to see an answer from a knowledgeable source). Your close vote is unwarranted IMO.
    – Dan Romik
    Aug 1, 2020 at 16:30
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    Too abstract. If somebody is a compulsory liar and invents facts and experimental results in their thesis? Somebody who cannot stop hitting fellow students? Somebody who is manipulating students and gaslighting them in group work to squeeze out the best mark without actually being that good in the topic? Somebody who cannot stop throwing out insults (yes, that disability)? You need to be more concrete, as it is now, the spectrum of responses is too wide. Aug 1, 2020 at 21:18

1 Answer 1


Behaving unethically, at least as far as it requires or deserves sanctions, requires an element of choice. If the person had no choice, e.g. because of a disability, then sanctions are not called for.

It is probably my lack of imagination, but I cannot think of an disability that requires students to act unethically.

As to how the law views this: talk to a lawyer or the legal department, or equal opportunities department of your university.

  • Interesting, but I don't agree. Your reasoning would suggest that if a student compulsively harmed other people, I would be obligated to keep teaching them. I would say that since I teaching things that can be used to harm people, I would be obligated to not teach such a student, even if their actions were involuntary. Not teaching them is essentially a sanction. Aug 1, 2020 at 12:20
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    @GoodDeeds I would venture to guess exactly no university professors are trained in instructing people with mental conditions such as these. Aug 1, 2020 at 23:47
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    @AnonymousPhysicist since this is a site on academia and you mentioned university students, I interpreted unethical behavior as plagiarism or cheating. So that reinforces the comments of others, that you need to narrow down your question by specifying what kind of unethical behavior you want to talk about. Aug 3, 2020 at 9:11
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    @AnonymousPhysicist Harming others only slightly more complex: you now have two incompatible interests: the disabled students wants to get an education and the other students and faculty don't want to be hurt. If the university decides that it cannot teach that student without endangering others, then that decision is not a sanction. Not every decision that hurts someone is a sanction. Aug 3, 2020 at 9:17
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    Of course what the law should be and what it actually is are two completely different things. Of you want to discuss the law, you need to talk to a lawyer. As to your second comment: It is not enough for a decision to be a reaction, the purpose of an decision must be to punish. Think of being committed to a mental health facility against your will. That is a decision that is a reaction to actions and the person being committed perceives this as hurtful. Still, it is not a sanction. Aug 3, 2020 at 9:55

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