CMC: No discrimination in seizure incident | AspenTimes.com

CMC: No discrimination in seizure incident

ASPEN – Colorado Mountain College said it did not discriminate against a student who had a seizure in an Aspen class, but a school official did admit to having “some concerns that CMC should address in the area of disability accommodation.”

The statement comes more than three months after Channing Seideman filed a formal complaint asking the school to place three faculty members on leave during an investigation into an incident in September.

Seideman, who has epilepsy, claims that certain CMC faculty members inappropriately handled a seizure she had during class. According to the complaint, Seideman had a seizure during an EMT class on Sept. 13, prompting CMC to email her that it is “reaching the decision point of the seizures becoming too distractive for the circumstance of learning – which is where the college is allowed to ask a student to drop.” The seizure was the second Seideman had in three semesters at CMC’s Aspen campus.

She asked that instructor Bryce Halverson, disability services coordinator Anne Moll and her supervisor, assistant dean of student services Lisa Doak, be placed on leave while an investigation took place. If a “discriminatory mentality is found to exist,” Seideman requested that the three faculty members, along with assistant vice president of student affairs Mark McCabe and Aspen campus vice president Joseph Maestas, be “terminated from their positions, and replaced with personnel who will advocate for students with disabilities.”

The 13-page response to the formal complaint was the result of an internal investigation into the matter. Brad Bankhead, vice president of student affairs for CMC, handled the investigation, concluding that there was no discrimination and that nobody involved should be reprimanded.

“I wish some people would have been held more accountable for their actions, because I do think they acted in a discriminatory way. That situation … it makes you feel like you’re so different; that they set you aside. You take a step back, asking yourself if you weren’t disabled, would they handle it different?” Seideman said last week, adding she has the utmost respect for Bankhead and how he handled the situation. “But I was so excited to see that they will be making changes.”

In the report, Bankhead outlined four steps the college will make to improve the way it accommodates students with disabilities, including: mandatory training for adjunct faculty on how to interact with students with disabilities; clarifying college publications to include language to provide “sufficient definition for all students and faculty in demonstrating ‘an atmosphere conducive to the pursuit of learning'”; creating a clear policy for handling situations when no “reasonable accommodation” can be found; adding a detailed formal complaint procedure to its student handbook.

“As mentioned in the report, the actions we’ve outlined are being carried out promptly,” said CMC spokeswoman Debbie Crawford. “We are already working on developing faculty training, and are planning to implement at least some of that training this spring. We update student policies and college publications annually, and the changes as explained in the report will be part of our next updates.”

For Seideman, this is a great first step.

“Even if it’s the slightest change, it’s a step in the right direction,” she said. “I hope that by filing the complaint and following this through that I did something for all disabled kids who will go to CMC, because being singled out is just the worst feeling in the world and no one deserves that.

“The changes they suggested are great. I couldn’t be more happy about them.”

Seideman’s father, Rob, agreed: “At first we were really disappointed that people weren’t being held to task a little more, but we sort of expected this,” he said. “To be honest, it’s probably better to be making a change in the system; I hope they follow through with what they said they will do.

“I am so proud of Channing for seeing this through. If we hadn’t done anything, I believe it would have gotten worse. And now there is a chance it can get significantly better.”

jmcgovern@aspentimes.com


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