Did You Take an ACT College Admission Test? There Could Be Money Awaiting!
Anyone who's had to take a college admissions test knows how stressful and nervewracking it can be. Whether it's within a state that predominantly uses the SAT or one that uses the ACT, it's a process that requires a great deal of focus and dedication.
Of course, given that we're in an era where individuals' information is strictly protected under federal laws such as HIPAA and FERPA, we expect that information from these exams should remain private. Of course, there's also the implicit expectation that these exams have no motive other than to measure aptitude in a quantitative manner to pass onto colleges.
Unfortunately, the ACT administrators were accused of abusing students' and their families' trust. Here are the facts and where the case is.
If you've taken a standardized test, you may remember that they frequently ask if you have a disability before taking them. It's usually to allow for reasonable accommodations per the ADA, such as allowing a child with ADHD to have more time taking a test or to allow an autistic child to be in a quieter room.
While the SAT allows students with disabilities to discuss accommodations with local test administrators and intentionally does not keep track of who has one, the ACT asks whether the test-takers at the time of the test if they have one.
A group of 65,728 students stated that the ACT took that information and disseminated it to third parties. ACT denied these allegations ardently and stated that confidential information has never been shared without permission.
The Issue of Venue
If 65,728 people sounded pretty low for every person with a disability who took the previous ACT in the whole country, it's because it is! This type of case is usually pursued in a federal circuit court because typically it's the federal legislature who has sweeping data and information protection laws.
This class was solely students who took the last ACT in California. The entire case was handled in state courts.
ACT did not immediately go for an out of court settlement. They fought the allegations for months, but they essentially ended up pleading nolo contendre, meaning that they will not admit any wrongdoing, but they acknowledge that it's a better deal for them to pay out a settlement.
Their claim of innocence is somewhat suspicious, as the settlement amount was the most that any testing agency has paid in court in history: $16,000,000. Subtracting the average 20% attorney cut leaves $12,800,000 for approximately 66,000 people. Though the specifics are only in a private contract out of court, it's a safe bet that each member of the class received more than a thousand dollars when all was said and done.
What If I Took the Test and Identified as Disabled but Live in Another State?
Though it's likely ACT would love for you to think that there's no hope, nothing could be further from the truth. The allegations of data-sharing without permission are not solely within California.
Now that there has been a settlement, it's very likely that there will either be a collection of states trying to receive compensation for unlawful health data sharing or a more sweeping, combined venue federal lawsuit for everyone.
You should regularly keep up with the news on this if it applies to you, since that money could come in handy, especially during the pandemic! If there isn't one in your state, you could consider reaching out to a contingency-based, respected law firm to see if you can form a "class" of your own.
Why Is the Settlement So High?
Usually when we hear about class action lawsuits, it's something like $2 per person in the class. This is because there is typically a ceiling only on the amount that the defendant must pay out, not how many people can join it.
This lawsuit is particularly unique, as it's verifiable whether or not one is eligible for it, making the number of plaintiffs smaller than most class action suits. Additionally, many students are claiming that they're having difficulty getting into college despite meeting criteria and have asserted that they believe it's because of this data that they state was shared without their consent.
Out of class action opportunities, this one is a needle in a haystack, but you may have to put some work into it to kickstart a similar one in your state.
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