November 20, 2019
Congresswoman Katie Porter
1117 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Congresswoman Porter:
I write on behalf of the National Council on Disability (NCD), a non-partisan federal agency that advises the President and Congress regarding disability policy issues, to commend the introduction of the Student Mental Health Rights Act as a bill consistent with the findings and recommendations NCD has made to Congress on the topic of the experiences of students with mental disabilities on college campuses.
In 2017, NCD released Mental Health on College Campuses: Investments, Accommodations Needed to Address Student Needs, the research of which gave credence to many of the same findings noted in the bill regarding applicability of antidiscrimination requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the Fair Housing Act to institutions of higher education; as well as the negative experiences many students with mental health disabilities have with colleges and universities when they are in crisis.
The Student Mental Health Rights Act would require the Secretary of Education, in consultation with the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, to issue guidance regarding legal obligations of institutions of higher education to accommodate students with mental health disabilities. It also calls for the Secretary of Education to study and report on best practices for supporting students with mental health disabilities in making decisions regarding the management of their conditions. Similarly, in Mental Health on College Campuses, NCD recommended that the Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Education should issue best practices for providing legally required modifications and accommodations for students with mental health disabilities.
We commend your leadership in recognizing the importance of better understanding and accommodating the needs of students with mental health disabilities during their pursuits of higher education, and we recognize the introduction of the Student Mental Health Rights Act as a step in the right direction to that end. Given our recent research in this area, if we can be of assistance to your office on this topic as discussions about this legislation continue, please reach out to Anne Sommers, Director of Legislative Affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.