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Perfectly Imperfect: Law Students with Non-Apparent Disabilities and Disability Law


How does disability rights law map on to the lives of law students with non-apparent disabilities? This case study uses legal analysis of case law to show how the law maps on to the lives of two law students with non-apparent disabilities. The study takes place in one public law school in California. It explores the prevalence of the stigma surrounding disability in law school compelling law students to continue trying to pass as able-bodied, sending a constant message that their unique gifts and perspective do not matter, as long as they continue to pass. The Department of Justice’s Operation Varsity Blues is prosecuting one of the largest college admission scams of wealthy students faking disabilities, makes this study all the more relevant adding to the stigma around non-apparent disabilities; viewing such students as frauds trying to game the system, not smart, and a drain of resources.

The challenges in recruiting for the study highlighted the deep-rooted fear in talking about their disability all the more supported by legal precedent that acknowledged “professional stigma” if a student is found out. A normative law is proposed to help combat the environment that creates the reluctance of law students to speak out against their current marginalization. Laws are necessary but at times not sufficient. Thus this proposal cautions the reader to keep in mind that the law alone is not enough, but it is a first step in attempting to mitigate the repression of students with non-apparent disabilities in the hopes of remedying their unequal share in our democracy, in turn, strengthening it. The countless obstacles encountered by these law students at times creates a perfect legal advocate because these students have had to advocate for themselves in an imperfect world. Law students with non-apparent disabilities do not have the Varsity Blues because they are perfectly imperfect.

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