ABA committee weighs adding gender identity, ethnicity to law school accreditation diversity rules

Law Schools

ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar


Proposed revisions (PDF) to add gender identity and ethnicity to existing rules regarding diversity, nondiscrimination and equal opportunity are being considered by the Standards Review Committee of the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar at its July 15 meeting in Chicago.

The proposed revisions state that Standards 205 and 206 do not require religiously affiliated groups to act inconsistently with elements of their religious beliefs. The proposed revision to Standard 206 adds language that ABA-accredited law schools “may provide a preference” for people following the school’s religious affiliation or purpose, but that can’t be used to preclude admissions or retention of students on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity sexual orientation, age or disability.

Also, the proposed revision to Standard 206 calls for removing the term “Inclusion” from the heading. Additionally, it adds “student body” to existing language that currently only addresses the diversity of faculty and staff, and replaces “gender, race, and ethnicity” with “ race, color, ethnicity, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, and disability.”

“While the forms of concrete action required to demonstrate a law school’s commitment to having a student body, faculty, and staff that are diverse with respect to the categories listed in Standard 206(a)(2) are not specified, they may include periodic assessment of progress towards having a diverse environment at a law school, support of designated diversity groups, provision of mentoring opportunities, and support of pro bono and externship opportunities that reflect a commitment to an environment that is diverse,” an interpretation of the proposed revision reads. “The determination of a law school’s satisfaction of such obligations is based on the totality of the law school’s actions and the results achieved.”

The committee will also consider potential changes to existing law school accreditation standards involving acquiescence for major program changes, distance education and separate locations and branch campuses. Proposed revisions approved at the meeting will be forwarded to the section’s governing council.

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