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The Justice Department today filed a lawsuit against the Kent State University, the Kent State University Board of Trustees and university officials for violating the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against students with disabilities in student housing.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, charges that Kent State and its employees engaged in a pattern or practice of violating the Fair Housing Act by refusing to consider reasonable accommodation requests by students with psychological or emotional disabilities seeking to live with assistance animals in university housing. The suit also charges that Kent State treats students with psychological and emotional disabilities who need to live with assistance animals less favorably than similarly situated students with other types of disabilities such as mobility disabilities or vision impairments . This lawsuit arose as a result of a complaint filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by a student enrolled at Kent State who sought to live with a dog following a Kent State psychologist’s recommendation that living with a dog would help alleviate symptoms of the student’s disability.
“The Fair Housing Act requires housing providers, including universities operating student housing, to grant reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities to ensure equal housing opportunities,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Molly Moran for the Civil Rights Division. “Housing providers may not discriminate against individuals based on the type of disability they have. The Justice Department is committed to enforcing fair housing laws that protect the rights of all people, including individuals with psychological or emotional disabilities, to obtain reasonable accommodations when they are needed.”
“Many people with disabilities rely on therapy animals to enhance their quality of life,” said HUD Assistant Secretary Gustavo Velasquez for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD and the Department of Justice will continue to work together to take action whenever the nation’s fair housing laws are violated.”
The lawsuit seeks a court order prohibiting future discrimination by the defendants, monetary damages for those harmed by the defendants’ actions and a civil penalty. Any individuals who have information relevant to this case are urged to contact the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section of the Civil Rights Division at 1-800-896-7743, extension 992.
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.usdoj.gov/crtg . Individuals who believe that they have been victims of housing discrimination can call the Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743, e-mail the Justice Department at email@example.com , or contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777 or through its website, www.hud.gov
The complaint is an allegation of unlawful conduct. The allegation must still be proven in federal court.