Justice Department sues Kent State University for violating Fair Housing Act

Celia Fernandez

The U.S. Department of Justice is suing Kent State University, several university officials and its Board of Trustees for violating the Fair Housing Act because of discrimination against students with disabilities in student housing. 

The lawsuit says the university and its employees refused to allow students with psychological or emotional disabilities to have assistance animals in university housing, according to the lawsuit filed last Monday in the U.S. District Court in Cleveland. 

“Kent State is aware of the charges stemming from claims made several years ago,” the university said Sept. 8 in a press release. “Helping out students succeed remains a top priority, and we look forward to discussing the facts of this case at the appropriate time.” 

The lawsuit comes after a student, Jacqueline Luke, made a complaint with the Fair Housing Advocates Association for not being allowed to have a therapy dog to alleviate her anxiety attacks because it wasn’t trained as a service animal. 

Luke was living in the university-owned Allerton Apartments at the time of her complaint in 2010. 

Luke did not respond to requests for comment.  

The FHAA conducted an investigation after receiving the complaint and forwarded their findings to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Ddevelopment, also known as HUD. 

The suit also charges that Kent State treats students with psychological and emotional disabilities who need to live with assistance animals less favorably than students in similar situations with other types of disabilities, such as mobility disabilities or vision impairments, according to a press release from the Justice Department. 

“Many people with disabilities rely on therapy animals to enhance their quality of life,” said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD and the Department of Justice will continue to work together to take action whenever the nation’s fair housing laws are violated.” 

Contact Celia Fernandez at [email protected].

Check KentWired for updates later this week.