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Law School Case Brief

Wynne v. Tufts Univ. Sch. of Med. - 932 F.2d 19 (1st Cir. 1991)


In determining whether an individual meets the "otherwise qualified" requirement of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C.S. § 794, it is necessary to look at more than the individual's ability to meet a program's present requirements.


Appellant Steven Wynne, a medical student, was dismissed fromTufts University School of Medicine (appellee) after failing numerous courses during successive attempts to complete the first-year program. Appellant suffered from a learning disability (dyslexia), and upon his dismissal, brought a complaint claiming that appellee unlawfully discriminated against him because of his handicap, in violation of the Rehabilitation Act, and the state civil rights law. The district court granted summary judgment to appellee.


Did the university demonstrate that it reached a rationally justifiable conclusion that accommodating the student would lower academic standards or otherwise unduly affect its program?




The court affirmed in part and reversed in part. The court held that the record contained no mention of any consideration of possible alternatives or reference to any discussion of the unique qualities of multiple choice examinations, with respect to appellant's disability. Thus, there was no way of ascertaining whether the institution had made a professional effort to evaluate possible ways of accommodating appellant. The court affirmed the dismissal of the state claim because the underlying basis for it, that appellant was coerced into signing a document regarding his status, did not meet the level of actionable conduct under the statute.

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