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Wynne v. Tufts University School of Medicine

976 F.2d 791 (1992)

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Wynne v. Tufts University School of Medicine

United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

976 F.2d 791 (1992)

Facts

Steven Wynne (plaintiff) was a medical student at Tufts University School of Medicine (defendant) before he was expelled after failing to pass all of his first-year courses, even with accommodations. Wynne was never diagnosed with a learning disorder; however, Wynne was found to have a cognitive deficit and weakness in processing information with discrete units. Wynne’s difficulties were discovered following testing recommended by the medical school after Wynne failed eight of his first 15 exams. The school’s rule was to expel students after they fail five exams. However, Wynne was granted special permission from the dean to repeat his first year of medical school. While Wynne repeated his first-year courses, Tufts provided tutors, counselors, note-takers, and other accommodations. Wynne passed all but pharmacology and biochemistry and was allowed to retake them again. Wynne failed biochemistry a final time before being expelled. Wynne sued Tufts in a United States district court, alleging that his learning disability placed him at an unfair disadvantage for taking multiple-choice exams and that Tufts failed to provide reasonable accommodations. The district court granted summary judgment to Tufts after finding that Wynne’s inability to pass biochemistry did not constitute a qualified handicap that was protected from discrimination by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794 (1988). A United States court of appeals vacated the district court’s judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings so that Tufts could submit evidence demonstrating it considered alternative means of testing Wynne. The court left open the possibility that summary judgment could be granted upon Tufts’s presentation of sufficient evidence. Upon remand, the expanded record demonstrated thoughtful consideration of alternatives to multiple-choice testing of biochemistry and provided rational bases for the school’s conclusion that altering the format of the exam would result in significant program alterations and lower academic standards and the school’s reputation. Wynne appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Selya, J.)

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