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Southeastern Community College v. Davis

United States Supreme Court
442 U.S. 397 (1979), 442 U.S. 397, 99 S.Ct. 2361 (1979)


Davis (plaintiff) applied to an associate-degree nursing program at Southeastern Community College (the college) (defendant). Davis suffered from a serious hearing disability that prevented her from being able to understand normal speech. Davis had developed lip-reading skills. However, Davis was only able to understand speech if the speaker had gotten her attention, and she was looking directly at the speaker. The college discovered this disability and consulted with Mary McRee, the executive director of the North Carolina Board of Nursing. McRee advised that Davis’s disability would make it unsafe for Davis to practice as a nurse or participate safely in the normal clinical-training program, because Davis would be unable to respond to vocal commands from physicians in an operating room with surgical masks and in other scenarios. Based on McRee’s advice, the college determined that Davis was not qualified for the nursing program. Davis sued the college, alleging a violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as well as the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the United States Constitution. The district court ruled in favor of the college after a bench trial. Davis appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which reversed. The college then petitioned the United States Supreme Court for review. The Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Powell, J.)

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