Karen Bower’s practice focuses on disability discrimination cases in higher education.  Her focus is assisting students with a mental illness (depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, cutting or self-injury, eating disorder, bipolar disorder, or other exacerbation of mental illness), who have been charged with disciplinary action, have been placed on suspension or involuntary leave of absence, or have been denied reasonable accommodations.  She has litigated civil rights cases for more than 20 years.  She previously worked at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law Center where she successfully litigated several major cases in this area, including Nott v. George Washington University, and Doe v. Hunter College.  She is a recognized expert in this area, and is a frequent speaker and consultant to attorneys litigating these issues. She is on the Jed Foundation Board of Advisors.

While at the Bazelon Center, she created a model policy to guide school responses to students with mental illness and co-authored a guide to student rights.   Click here for the model policy and here for the guide to students’ rights.   

Ms. Bower is the co-author of the “Legal and Ethical Issues in College Mental Health” chapter in Mental Health Care in the College Community, Jerald Kay and Victor Schwartz, Eds. (2010), which has been described as:

among the clearest discussions of this topic I have read. It also manages to convey complex legal information while remaining focused on client needs and rights. One example is the excellent discussion of student confidentiality, where the authors address some of the common misconceptions about what makes up an educational record and under what circumstances one can legally share educational records with others. 

Dr. Anna Scheyett, the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at the School of Social Work, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.  The full text of the chapter can be found here.  

     Prior to joining the Bazelon Center, Ms. Bower was an adjunct law professor and supervising attorney with the D.C. Law Students in Court Program.  Previously, she spent several years at the ACLU National Prison Project, where she brought cases involving the constitutional rights of incarcerated persons. She also practiced with a private firm, where she pursued litigation in employment discrimination and a broad array of civil rights cases. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and holds a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center.