The Justice Department announced that Ohio’s Kent State University (KSU) has agreed to pay $145,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit alleging that the university had maintained a policy of not allowing students with psychological disabilities to keep emotional support animals in university-operated student housing.
Under the settlement agreement, which must still be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, KSU will:
- pay $100,000 to two former students who sought and were denied a reasonable accommodation to keep an emotional support dog in their university-operated apartment;
- pay $30,000 to a fair housing organization that advocated on behalf of the students;
- pay $15,000 to the United States; and
- adopt a housing policy that will allow persons with psychological disabilities to keep animals with them in university housing when such animals provide necessary therapeutic benefits to such students and allowing the animal would not fundamentally alter the nature of the housing.
The proposed settlement would resolve a lawsuit filed by the department in 2014.
In that lawsuit, the department alleged that KSU violated the Fair Housing Act when, in 2010, it denied a request to allow a student with a psychological disability and her husband to keep an emotional support dog in their university-operated student apartment.
The students, along with the Fair Housing Advocates Association in Akron, Ohio, filed a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD investigated the complaint, determined that KSU had violated the Fair Housing Act and referred the matter to the department.
Under the proposed settlement, KSU has agreed to change its policy to accommodate similar requests going forward.