ACT, Inc. is in some hot water, defending itself in a lawsuit brought by test-takers (and in some cases, their parents) in which the organization is accused of selling information as it pertains to the students’ disability statuses to colleges. You see, when test-takers sign up for the ACT, they are prompted with a series of questions. In fact, they are asked if they have any disabilities requiring “special provisions from the educational institution.” In the class action lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles against the maker of the ACT, the plaintiffs argue that this represents “flagrant violations of the privacy and civil rights of students with disabilities… ACT profits off these violations and uses them to gain an edge in the marketplace over its only competitor, the College Board, which does not disclose students’ disabilities to colleges and universities.”
Allegations Against ACT
As the complaint reads, “ACT asks every student registering for the ACT Test if they have disabilities that require ‘special provisions from the educational institution [i.e. a college],’ and asks them to choose a disability that ‘most closely describes your situation.’ The choices include hearing impairment, visual impairment, learning or cognitive disability, motor impairment, multiple disabilities, or no disability that requires special provisions. This question is part of the test registration process and is separate from the ACT accommodations request process. ACT does not use this information to determine whether to grant a student testing accommodations. It uses this information to make money.”
The complaint continues, “ACT knowingly uses this data in two impermissible ways. First, ACT includes this detailed disability information in its score reporting services to colleges…Second, ACT sells the same private and confidential disability data to colleges to make money. As a result of ACT’s access to private student information, its share in the competitive enrollment services marketplace continues to grow.”
As our loyal readers may remember, back in 2002, ACT ceased flagging the test scores of students who require extra time on the exam due to disabilities. But while ACT did indeed stop putting information about the disabilities of the individual test-takers when they were sent home to students and their families (and to colleges, too), beginning about a year ago, the organization started flagging this information on score reports sent to colleges, as the lawsuit alleges and as news outlets like “Motherboard” have independently verified. It will indeed be interesting to see what comes of this suit and how ACT, Inc. will respond to these allegations. So far, the organization has declined to comment on the case.
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