Former Bethel student sues university for discrimination

- A former Bethel University student is suing the school for discrimination.

The student’s parents allege the university did not live up to its promise, and especially state law, in making sure their son was treated inclusively in a special program for students with intellectual disabilities.

It’s a case that squares off Bethel University against a former student only identified as “AC.”

AC is an intellectually disabled adult who was enrolled in Bethel’s BUILD program for inclusive learning. But his parents' lawsuit says that’s not what happened.

“The law requires that he participate with non-disabled peers and students. He was not allowed to do that,” attorney Phillip Villaume said.

The Bethel BUILD program markets itself as an inclusive two-year certificate program where students learn to “live as independently as possible, maintain meaningful employment and value lifelong learning.”    

“But, what we were led to believe is very different from what it was,” AC’s father Christopher Luebke said.

Their lawsuit alleges Bethel "specifically promised inclusive educational services and associated extracurricular activities that were never performed or not performed as promised.”

AC’s parents filed a complaint with the university. The lawsuit includes letter from Bethel University President Jay Barnes to AC’s parent that reads, “I find that disability discrimination occurred against your son” in access to academic class electives.

“This is a serious, serious discrimination case. It should not have happened. Hopefully it won’t happen again and my clients bringing this lawsuit will hopefully bring some prevention so that it doesn’t happen again to any other students,” Villaume said.

A spokeswoman for Bethel University said the university cannot comment on litigation, but said it’s committed to providing a safe and productive learning environment for all students. 

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