School Bans Teen's Service Dog
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 31, 2005
STAFFORD, VIRGINIA--Fifteen-year-old Sarah Garvin cannot bring her service dog, Satin, to school.
The Washington Post reported that Sarah, who has Down syndrome, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and speech difficulties, has been told to keep the 60-pound black Labrador retriever mix out of H.H. Poole Middle School. Sarah's parents claim that the dog helps her self-confidence at school, and that giving verbal commands to the dog helps her learn to speak up.
District guidelines leave it up to the school principal to decide when animals are allowed on school grounds.
Sarah's parents said they were first told the dog's hair dander would cause problems. Later, they were told Sarah was doing so well that she does not need a special accommodation.
Stafford County schools spokesperson Valerie Cottongim, who explained that she could not speak to the specifics of the case, told the Post: "When we're looking at an animal on school property we have to consider the needs of all the children and the health and safety of the students and staff . . . A school is not the same as a restaurant or public place. We're not a public accommodation."
Sarah's parents said the dog caused no problems at her last school.
Disability rights advocates have suggested to the parents that they find an attorney to fight the school -- something the Garvins are resisting.
"We hesitate going to a lawyer, because this is something they should do because it is good," said Sarah's mom, Melodee said of the school. "They shouldn't be compelled to do it."
"Girl can't bring aid dog to school" (Washington Post via Seattle Times)