Medical Leave of Absence
Part of managing your condition at college is acknowledging when you are struggling or unable to meet academic demands. Sometimes it becomes necessary to take a break from school to manage these setbacks.
Taking a break is often a personal choice based on input from you, your parents, and mental health professionals. Together, you might determine that a leave of absence is the best decision for you.
Involuntary Leave of Absence
There are circumstances where your school makes this decision on your behalf. Of course, a school can’t discriminate against a qualified student based on a disability. For instance, a school can’t force a student to leave because of a mental health problem if the student meets the school’s basic academic requirements. Still, colleges today do reserve the right to require students to take a leave of absence, though this should be done in a careful and thorough manner. This happens only in rare circumstance when a student can’t safely remain at the university or meet academic standards, even with accommodations and other support.
To learn more about campus mental health and your legal rights, click here.
So a college will consider an academic leave of absence if you’re unable to function or you’re no longer academically successful. However, before that happens, contact your campus disability services office to make sure that all accommodations have been considered. For example, if you’re registered as having a disability, you might be able to reduce your class load, while still being considered a “full-time” student, without losing a scholarship. In general, most colleges will be happy to work with you. So don’t hesitate to ask questions, voice your concerns and reach out for help.
Returning to School
When returning from a leave of absence, school officials sometimes ask students to sign a behavioral contract and agree to various conditions before they will be allowed back on campus. Keep in mind that a school can’t require that a mental illness be cured or that disability-related behavior be eliminated unless that behavior creates a direct threat that can’t be reduced to an acceptable level with accommodations.
If you want to return to school after taking a leave of absence for mental health reasons, you shouldn’t be subjected to more rigorous standards or procedures than a student who wants to return after taking a leave for physical reasons.
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