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Service dogs in public schools

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I've read of a couple of cases of service dogs being refused access to public schools, and wanted to see what y'all think.

 

See, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a public entity like a school can't discriminate, which means the entity has to make a reasonable accomodation to allow the person with the disability to have meaningful access to the program or services.

 

In California, a judge ruled that the school had to allow a deaf girl with CP to bring her service dog to school with her, because she needed the dog to increase her physical independence and decrease her need to rely on other people to perform tasks outside her physical capacity. Refusing the girl admission to school when accompanied by her service dog was, the court held, discrimination.

 

In New York, a judge refused to grant a temporary injunction that would have allowed a deaf boy to bring his service dog to school, in part because one of the boy's teachers and one of his fellow students were both highly allergic and being near a dog could cause a severe asthma attack. The boy argued he was being deprived of a service dog completely, and not just at school, because the dog's training suffered when it wasn't allowed to work for eight to ten hours every school day.

 

Now, the ADA doesn't mean a public entity has to allow the disabled individual the accomodation of his/her choice, it only requires them to make a reasonable accomodation. In the case of the New York boy, the fact that he had interpreters and others who could alert him to sounds persuaded the judge that a reasonable accomodation had been made. The New York judge didn't believe the boy's need for independence outweighed the health concerns of faculty and students.

 

I'm not sure what I think. Both cases make really valid points. I know there are folks here who are advocates for allowing access to service animals, and I'd be really interested to hear their views on the subject. And anyone else's as well. :rolleyes:

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The one serious issue I could see with allowing service dogs in schools is a case where a child/children in a class had dog allergies - particularly if those allergies were severe.

 

Aside from that, though, I would think it should be permitted.

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I think the judges both decided correctly in their respective cases. You essentialy have a "life over limb" decision in the case of the classmate with asthma. And other accomadations were made to compensate for the one boy's disability.

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It's that whole, "your rights end at my nose" thing. I agree with Maralynn, both judges were correct.

 

I agree. I'm a public school teacher, and we forbid ALL 14-year-old kids to have peanuts in school, because one of the boys on my team gets an allergic reaction from them. One kid's rights end when another kid's rights begin.

 

If there were no allergies, I think the dog kid would win, hands-down. The accomodations we have to make to be "reasonable" are pretty outlandishly unreasonable most of the time, in my opinion. The dog thing is nothing compared to some accomodations we have to make, which are not only inconvenient at times, but downright unfair to the majority of the school population.

 

Mary

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I think I would have to know more in the case where the dog/child was ruled against. Such as was there another class or nearby school which could have accommodated the child, the age of the child, how long the child had been mainstreamed, etc. I agree that the asthmatic child should not have been endangered. However, I can also see depending on the circumstances where the dog wwould be instrumental in the deaf child developing self-confidence and being able to integrate into a world where the child is "different" in ways where an interpeter would not be sufficient and I believe that child's needs are important as well. Sometimes there are no easy answers.

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So what on earth would they do if they had a child whose parents were peanut farmers, or worked at a peanut packing factory, or something? Segregate the child? OR segregate the child with allergies?

 

These things are getting absurd. I can't imagine seperating a child from his service dog. It's not a matter of convenience - the dog DOES need constant interaction with his partner for the team to work. From time on the bus to coming through the front door, we're talking ten to twelve hours most likely. How stupid would it be to have a service dog and not be able to use him for most of your waking hours?

 

I'd either move the allergic child or move the deaf child to a class with no children with allergies.

 

Most of the time these cases are caused by parents who want to cause trouble. Or overzealous teachers and administrators who can't think creatively to save their lives.

 

And yes, I was a teacher too - and now I'm a parent and this is one of MANY reasons I homeschool now - and so many others are, too. And the school boards are just completely baffled as to why children are leaving the system in droves. :rolleyes:

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bcfriend - the child in the New York case was a high school senior, as I remember. He'd always been mainstreamed, and I believe the severely allergic child was actually in his American Sign Language class, where the deaf child functioned as part of the instruction team.

 

I agree with Becca that to deprive a person of a service dog for eight or ten hours a day is to deprive the person of a service dog at all. And in reading the NY case, it sounds like this situation was caused by a combination of a parent causing trouble and a school being inflexible. The parent didn't really try to work with the school, IMO, but just showed up with dog and son several times after being told there were problems - I got the feeling she wanted to force a showdown. And the school refused to make some accomodations that would have been helpful in integrating the dog - like allowing the boy to change classes five minutes ahead of his class mates, etc.

 

Of course, once the law gets involved it wields a blunt instrument. A judge can't hold, for instance, that in situation A the dog should be allowed but not in situation B - s/he can only rule on the case in front of him/her. Which sets a precedent that generally gets interpreted by school districts as either "dogs allowed" or "no dogs allowed", depending on what the final outcome of the case was. And then the policy stays as it is until someone with the bucks or financial backing challenges it in court, arguing that the precedent doesn't apply to that person's case.

 

All of which is to say that its far preferable for people to work things out amongst themselves instead of hiring lawyers - but, given the ability of most folks to manage that, I feel like my job's pretty secure. :rolleyes:

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I have to say that not allowing a service dog to actually be a service is wrong. There could have been a better compromise. If the allergic student was only in one class with the Student/Dog then why couldn't the dog be left in the admin office or some other room for a period, which is what 50 minutes or so. That would have been better than saying that the dog can't do the job it was purchased to do.

 

In the case of the deaf student I guess I can understand why some may feel the dog was not a necessity but who has the right to make that decision. We have a deaf teammate on the flyball team. She is remarkable and even though her dog is not a service dog per se, Lucy has been trained for service in many ways. It really helps my teammate be independent.

 

There is always a way to make it work if people are willing to try.

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If the asthmatic child is taking the class to learn how to communicate with the deaf, it seems to me that the child is going to have to make accommodations because a significant number of deaf people have service dogs. I have severe asthma for which I take several medications daily - thank God my triggers are NOT dogs and cats! - so I can be empathetic to the asthmatic child but I do still feel there were things that the asthmatic child (or his parents or school) could have done which would not have impinged on the rights of the deaf child. What is the asthmatic child going to do in his work life if a co-worker requires a service dog - not just the deaf, but a blind or wheelchair bound person? I do think the deaf child should have also advised the school that the dog would be attending with him so that arrangements could have been made to avoid the situation which arose. It just seems that a better solution could have been found rather than banning the service dog.

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So what on earth would they do if they had a child whose parents were peanut farmers, or worked at a peanut packing factory, or something? Segregate the child? OR segregate the child with allergies?

 

These things are getting absurd... Most of the time these cases are caused by parents who want to cause trouble. Or overzealous teachers and administrators who can't think creatively to save their lives.

 

I agree things are getting absurd, and believe it or not, we teachers would love to put the absurdity aside, too.

 

But I think the primary cause is our lawsuit-happy culture. No matter which way a school rules, some parent is sitting on the sidelines, waiting to sue. Deaf kid's parents sue or allergic kid's parents sue. And trust me - the schools don't have the money to pay the lawyer, even if they can win the case. So they jump through ludicrous hoops to try to appease everyone. I have never met an administrator who wouldn't like to run a common-sense school with practical, sound rules - but they're charged with saving the district the money it will lose if an overzealous parent wins a court case.

 

It's a lose/lose battle we're fighting. But everyone wants their little slice of money if they think they have a potential case.

 

Mary

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Well my thing is that both kids were deaf. While I cherish my ability to hear I'm not sure what the service dog really provides for those children unless they were also blind and it wasn't mentioned. I don't know much about services dogs for the deaf mostly because I've never heard of it but I don't think this is like sending a blind child out to walk across the street without his seeing eye dog. So I don't really see the big deal about the kid having the dog with him in that class. Seems like the dog could have waited somewhere else during that one class. Its not like the child would be alone and not know if a fire alarm went off.

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My understanding (which is admittedly limited) is derived from working for a vet that discounted services for a local service dog training group. That group primarily trained hearing dogs and assistance (wheel chair and similiar) dogs, not guide dogs (for the visually impaired).

 

Hearing dogs are mostly used to help act as the "ears" for the deaf person. If there are other disabilities, they can be trained to assist in other ways as well. Otherwise, they do things like alert the handler to ringing phones, doorbells, car horns or approaching cars that the person might not hear, over timers, smoke/fire alarms, etc etc etc. They are VERY helpful tools for the people that need them.

 

I wasn't clear on if the other student was deaf as well. If he is, then I think he kind of has the "trump" on priority since he has just as much need to be in that particuliar class. If it was more of an elective class for sign language, I think the student still has the right to be in the class, and I would assume such a class wouldn't be offered multiple times during the day, so it would be hard to rotate the two students to different classes.

 

Seems like the dog could have waited somewhere else during that one class. Its not like the child would be alone and not know if a fire alarm went off.

 

That was my main question. Why couldn't the service dog stay in another room or in the principal's office during that one problem class? Unless there was more to the situation, like the two students were regularly in classes together.

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I think it's pretty safe to assume that a blind child would not be in an ASL class, if you think about it. I have seen some situations blind folks touch a signer's hands to "read" ASL letters, but there's a geat deal of ASL that is about facial expression, hand movement, and how vigorously the signs are made, etc., all of which would be lost on a blind child. Spelling things out is very cumbersome and is not how most "speakers" of ASL communicate.

 

Service dogs are going to become more and more of an issue as people start to stretch the limits of good sense (and in some cases, common decency and truth). I know a man who took his dog across country on Amtrak as a service dog. No one could ask him what he needed the dog for, and the process of getting it certified as a service dog involved paying $25 (or something similarly nominal) to a certifying organization. I think he said the dog helped keep his blood pressure down or something.

 

What was really going on was that the couple were moving to from New England to LA in the summer and it was too hot to fly with a dog.

 

Now, personally, I think it's a shame that someone should have to lie and cheat to get a well-behaved, sweet dog onto an Amtrak train. But that's another issue. I have seen "service dogs" that are not well-behaved or sweet. And as far as I could tell the owner's only disability was an overattachment to their dog combined with an inability to see its flaws and a callous disregard of the needs of other people.

 

Look for more litigation over service dogs in the future, not less.

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Look for more litigation over (insert whatever here) in the future, not less.

 

Absolutely! And it will become more and more ridiculous because everything is becoming "someone else's" fault or responsibility...

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I am also in the camp of people that feel that the judgements where correct.

For all the reasons mentioned above.

And I am also of the opinion that cheating and lying and stretching the limits will result in bad decisions that impact people that is should not.

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