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Special Education District Settles With Teaching Assistant Over Service Dog
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 11, 2005

ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI--Susan Thompson, a former teacher's assistant with the Special School District of St. Louis County, is to receive $254,589 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit in which she claimed the district refused to allow her to use her service dog, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Thompson, who injured her right leg in a 1998 accident, worked in a classroom with young children with mental disabilities from November 2000 to May 2004.

In a discrimination complaint she filed with the state in February 2003, Thompson claimed that the district refused to let her bring her service dog, Droopy, into the classroom, even though a doctor had recommended that she use the dog to help with her balance.

In August 2003, the district placed Thompson on involuntary administrative leave. She sued the district in October 2003, and was terminated eight months later.

Thompson claimed that the district fired her in retaliation for her suit.

The district denied her accusations.

Under the agreement reached earlier this month, the district will pay Thompson $13,000 in back pay, $4,589 for related costs and $237,000 for emotional distress, loss of reputation and embarrassment. The district had already paid one of its law firms nearly $204,000 for work on the case, bringing its total cost to nearly one-half million dollars.

Sharon Canaday, president of the Special Education Employees Association, told the Post-Dispatch: "I think it is a shame that a school district supposed to serve students with disabilities let this case go that far. We are supposed to teach people how to live with disabilities, and we should be accommodating of people with disabilities."


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