07 July 2009

Required Medical Leave

This is a proposed new rule for my college (may have already gone through, my e-mail went on the fritz at about the worst time). It came, interestingly enough, after a proposal for the police to acquire rifles to deal with an active shooter failed, and during that discourse, many of the people against the proposal said that there should be preventive measures such as counseling instead, and in the listserv I warned of the potential for us to become overly vigilant for anyone who looks to be outside of the norm, to overly screen if prevention is our only means of addressing such a rare yet devastating situation (not that prevention would be 100% anyway, even if the schools excluded everyone who ever had a psych diagnosis before).

While this rule does not appear to be related (it includes physical disabilities as well), I cannot help but wonder how the culture will continue to evolve, here and elsewhere:

Issuing a required medical leave of absence.

(1) The dean of student and academic support services, or the dean's designee, (hereinafter collectively referred to as the "dean") may require a student to take a medical leave of absence if a student has a physical illness or a mental, emotional or psychological condition and as a result of the condition: (a) Is engaging in, or is threatening to engage in, behavior that poses a significant danger of causing substantial harm to the health, safety or welfare of the student or others; or (b) The student's behavior has resulted in substantial harm to the health, safety, or welfare of the student, or others and the behavior continues, or there is a risk the behavior will continue, posing a significant danger of causing substantial harm to the health, safety, or welfare of the student or others; or (c) The student's behavior has resulted in significant disruption of the teaching, learning or administrative activities of other members of the campus community and the behavior continues, or there is a risk the behavior will continue, with the likely result of such behavior substantially impeding the education processes or proper activities or functions of the college and its personnel.

(2) In determining whether to require a student to take a medical leave of absence, the dean shall consult with the director of health and counseling services, or the director's designee (hereinafter collectively referred to as "director of health and counseling services") and, where possible, other persons who can provide relevant information about a student's condition.

(3) Prior to the dean requiring a student to take a medical leave of absence, the student shall be provided an opportunity to present information about his or her circumstances, where reasonably possible, to the dean. A student waives their opportunity to provide information if he or she is unwilling or unable to meet with the dean in a timely manner.

(4) The dean shall issue the required medical leave of absence in writing to the student. The written notice shall include the effective date of the leave, the reasons for requiring the leave, the conditions for reenrollment, and any restrictions imposed on the student's access to the campus or college-sponsored activities.

(5) The required medical leave of absence shall be effective twenty-one days after it is served on the student, unless the student files a timely written appeal of the dean's decision as set forth in these rules. Service of the dean's decision shall be complete upon deposit in the United States mail to the student, postage prepaid and properly addressed to the student at the last known address on file with the registrar's office, or by personal service on the student.



Note that "danger of causing substantial harm to" is delineated as separate from "behavior has resulted in substantial harm to", and is a criterion for required medical leave as well. While I think it is the best course of action for a college to put students in touch with resources in the community if they are posing a danger to their health and safety (but not to anyone else) rather than to boot them off campus, it is the "welfare" criterion that seems widest and most vulnerable to abuse.

I think the main flaws in it is that it doesn't distinguish between procedures for requiring a student to leave who is posing risk to only themselves or to others as well. For instance, someone who has difficulty keeping their room clean and so it is a fire hazard, poses a (small) danger to themselves. But in this, they would be treated with the same procedures as someone who is violent in classes and has suicidal thoughts expressed.

It is also made clear that it may be difficult to reenroll:

Returning from a required medical leave of absence.

(1) A student wishing to be considered for reenrollment to the college shall submit an application for reenrollment to the dean at least one month prior to the start of the quarter in which the student wishes to reenroll. The student shall provide appropriate documentation with any conditions for reenrollment set forth in the dean's decision. If a student files an appeal of the dean's decision, and the conditions for reenrollment are modified by the review board, the student shall provide evidence that the conditions set forth in the review board's order have been met. A student must also meet all other admission or enrollment requirements of the college for reenrollment.

(2) The dean shall consult with the director of health and counseling prior to determining if the student may reenroll.

(3) The dean shall notify the student in writing of the decision and the conditions associated with the approval or denial for reenrollment. 

(c) Washington State Code Reviser's Office


So one has to re-apply to the college, and then after that, the dean meets with the counselor and health people to see if they approve. In addition to meeting the normal requirements to admission. Unless someone is posing a danger to the community, I don't see how this can be construed as right. As an optional procedure to assist a student in determining preparedness, yes, great, I'm all for it. But what if external observations have enough distortion to put a decision out of your favor?


I was reading through an evaluation of me that was very detailed (some tests and interviews to ascertain dx and functioning), and while it captured the state of living and my general appearance and public approach to strangers, it was full of half-truths (not to imply deception, as in addition to being based on only a glimpse of my life and on the notes that were written down rather than on an amazing memory, but also that my approach to strangers is vastly different to how I am with others, mostly consisting of common stock pleasantries, echolalia, stimming, and stronger sensory experiences).

(In a further confirmation of this fact of life, they even wrote a half-truth that is concretely, verifiably false: that I'd never had an IEP based on a misunderstanding of my interview statements about how the high school delayed my IEP and never gave transition services other than a short paper detailing my strengths and weaknesses, which, while admittedly could have been clearer, were very detailed and repeated often enough. While this could just as well have been due to ambiguity in my account I gave - I do not recall such large extent of ambiguity as to grant such large discrepancies of accounts, but memory is fallible and it is quite possible - psychological consultations consist largely, almost entirely of statements of the individual and the interpretations made of them, so a clumsily constructed explanation should not be relied on, and hopefully such reports would be taken with large hills of salt).

Oddly enough, it was another half-truth, though one much more reflective of reality, when it was noted that I had never received transition services yet received some form of special education services.

Come to think of it, I have no idea what she thought I was trying to say based off what came out in that weird report! Just got back the report, GAF 40-45 and autism confirmed via ABAS and ADOS; WASI 3 in similarities, 17 vocab, 14 block design, 12 matrix reasoning; apparently they say I have a disability called chemical sensitivity when I referred to my being overstimulated by certain smells - yet another half-truth finding its way into report, my facts, perspectives on them, mixing with their interpretations and vantage points, this climate seems optimized to highlight the biases in human perspectives and reporting which makes a real problem when one person's report is seen as less valuable or reliable a contribution.

5 comments:

Club 166 said...

While I agree with your comments above, I think the most dangerous clause is:

(c) The student's behavior has resulted in significant disruption of the teaching, learning or administrative activities of other members of the campus community and the behavior continues, or there is a risk the behavior will continue, with the likely result of such behavior substantially impeding the education processes or proper activities or functions of the college and its personnel.
--------------
School: Your stimming and squawking disrupt other students' education

You: I'm autistic, that's part of who I am.

School: So, since there is no chance of you changing, you are put on indefinite required medical leave.

---------------

I think that the whole document is designed to give them carte blanche to effectively expel anyone who is "different" for any reason at all.

Joe

Adelaide Dupont said...

That global functioning doesn't sound too good. On what grounds was it given?

I first heard of laws like this in American universities in 2001, in the context of self-harm in the dormitories. I don't know if the students were then asked to take medical leave.

The half-truths sound well ... truthy. Especially the one with chemical sensitivity. (there are actual people on the autistic spectrum with multiple chemical sensitivity like Kate of Portland. I will find her blog soon to show you.).

What are you studying at university?

geosaru said...

I was responding to comments, and it got very, very long and went off beyond the points I was describing. So it's a new blog post:

http://autiegraph.blogspot.com/2009/07/required-medical-leave-pt-2.html

geosaru said...

Oh, and about the stimming and "disrupt education" - given the touchy feely environment of today, I wouldn't be surprised if supposedly having a negative aura was considered to be "disrupting education". If ever called to task in my advocacy, I'll point out that sometimes it's necessary to be a bit blunt to get to the root of people's unexamined stereotypes.

Activists can't be touchy-feely flowers who pretend everything is just peachy because saying otherwise might upset people. I should know, since I always tried to avoid conflict and even compromise the truth for the sake of any meager, tissue-paper-constructed unity, but that's not how people learn to expand their perceptions and how they would engage with other human beings, and it wasn't until around the age of 9 that I saw this to be futile, yet maintained the demure approach for much of my life. Sometimes a little "negativity" is needed, if it is an accurate reflection of reality and it is packaged and delivered in such a way as to inspire the audience to reflect and to act upon that reality, for the better of the world, rather than to reject the messenger wholesale.

autisable said...

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