Court Cases and Judicial Opinions Related
to Gatekeeping in Colleges, Universities, and
Bettie S. Cole and Robert G. Lewis
The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) requires programs to be responsible for establishing procedures to determine the “suitability” of the students it graduates. Suitability must be determined both at admission and throughout the time a student is in the social work education program (CSWE 1994:87, Evaluative Standard 5). Making suitability decisions is a difficult task and requires a working knowledge of the legal parameters within which such decisions may be made.
This chapter presents an annotated list of court cases and federal statutes and regulations related to academic and disciplinary decisions affecting student admissions and retention in professional programs. Decisions affecting admissions and termination policies and practices have dealt with four major areas of law and legal theory: constitutionally guaranteed procedural due process, arbitrary and capricious decisions, discrimination, and contract theory. The body of court cases and federal statutes and regulations presented in this chapter is intended to provide a foundation for programs to develop policies to guide their decisions to admit, to screen out, or to terminate students found to be unsuitable. Factors related to gatekeeping efforts that are addressed in the court cases include academic requirements, clinical skills, aptitude, behavioral and ethical conduct, and disability concerns.