A Lawrence man has filed a federal lawsuit against Washburn University in Topeka and a health care contractor at a Kansas prison, alleging he was unfairly dismissed from Washburn’s clinical psychology graduate program and an internship for an incident involving his ADHD medication.
The suit was filed recently on behalf of Ryan Talley, 30. His attorney Tony Shapiro alleged Washburn officials violated the Americans with Disabilities Act because they dismissed Talley based on his ADHD and need to use medication — he was prescribed Adderall — to treat it. Shapiro also alleged Washburn denied Talley a “reasonable accommodation,” in violation of the act.
“As a result of the plaintiff’s dismissal from Washburn University, the plaintiff has been unable to obtain his degree or his license as a psychologist and unable to pursue a career as a psychologist, and has, therefore, suffered irreparable damage, including past and future earnings, mental anguish and emotional distress,” Shapiro wrote in initial complaint.
The suit alleges these facts:
• Talley as a graduate student worked at an internship from October 2009 to March 2010 at the Topeka Correctional Facility engaging in individual and group psychotherapy with prison inmates. The internship was offered through Correct Care Solutions, a contractor that provides health care including mental health services at the prison.
• He was diagnosed with ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, in 1987 and was prescribed Adderall to help manage his ability to sustain attention to tasks and avoid distractions, for example.
• Six months into his internship on March 22, 2010, a prison guard stopped him and noticed he was bringing his daily dose of medication inside. The guard said he was prohibited from bringing it inside but allowed him to swallow the medication in the guard’s presence. Talley then proceeded inside and completed his work day without further incident.
• But Talley then alleged three days later he was reprimanded for the incident by two Correct Care Solutions officials. Then the company terminated his internship one day later, and four days later he was dismissed from the Washburn clinical psychology program. At two subsequent hearings, his dismissal was not overturned.
• Shapiro argued no one in the hearings directly brought up the March 22 incident, but he alleged Talley had received no prior reprimands from Correct Care Solutions.
“The plaintiff was never informed of any tangible reason for his dismissal,” Shapiro alleged.
• Talley also alleged that for six months he had entered the prison without incident carrying his daily dose of medication, which he said was within the prison’s rules. He claims he notified proper supervisors at Correct Care Solutions and provided a note about the medication from the Washburn University Student Health Center.
• Talley is seeking damages against Washburn University, its board of regents and Correct Care Solutions, and is also asking for reinstatement into the program.
Elinor Schroeder, a Kansas University law professor who studies disability law, said that in many education cases, courts have held ADHD to be a disability and that Congress in 2008 changed the law that made it easier for plaintiffs in those cases. But she also said courts always look at an individual person and the effect the condition has on the person’s life and ability to function.
“That would be the question. Can they reasonably accommodate him without altering the correctional facility’s function?” Schroeder said.
Shapiro, of Leawood, declined to comment on the case last week. Amanda Hughes, a Washburn spokeswoman, said the university’s legal counsel had no comment. According to federal court records last week, U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia had not yet set any hearings in the case.