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University of Iowa News Release


Jan. 13, 2012

Iowa law students help draft new Cedar Rapids code bolstering civil rights protections

The Cedar Rapids City Council this week approved amendments to the city's civil rights code that were developed and promoted with help from University of Iowa clinical law students.

Students in the Law and Policy In Action Clinic Project assisted the Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission in its efforts to expand coverage, streamline administration and comply with state and federal law. The College of Law clinic project started in 2007 and 21 law students contributed during the four years before the amendments were approved by the council on Tuesday.

Len Sandler, who directs the clinic's Law and Policy In Action Project, said the students conducted extensive legal research, drafted amendments, prepared documents and presentations and conducted focus groups. They appeared before and met with commissioners, the mayor, and members of the city council. He says students also performed statistical analysis and research, attended commission meetings, met with department heads and staff, realtors, landlords, and community groups. Clinic students also presented at Fair Housing conferences and provided other advocacy and technical assistance to the commission.

Sandler says the amendments will enhance enforcement and education and benefit people who live, or work in Cedar Rapids, particularly persons with disabilities. Changes to the code:

--extend civil rights protections to all protected classes of individuals in credit, education, employment, housing, and public accommodations activities. Sandler says this kind of across the board coverage is an Iowa first.

--hold designers and builders of multi-family dwellings and public accommodations responsible for meeting Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility standards until compliance is achieved. Sandler believes this is the first provision of its kind in the country.

--provide for local enforcement of several ADA public accommodations provisions, including accessibility and barrier removal, reasonable accommodations, and other requirements. These provisions will apply to private business and local governments.

--spell out the rights and responsibilities of persons with disabilities to be accompanied by or live with animals that perform tasks or provide emotional support. Sandler says Cedar Rapids is the first city to receive HUD certification for its assistance animal definitions and provisions.

--protect individuals from discrimination based on association with someone in a protected class, and protecting persons who file a complaint or lawfully oppose an unfair or discriminatory practice from retaliatory acts.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010 (office), 319-541-8434 (cell),