School Bans Boy, 5, And His Dog
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 12, 2006
NASHUA, NEW HAMPSHIRE--Michelle Austin says she plans on attending the Nashua School District's board meeting this coming Monday night to make sure school officials are correctly wording a policy that will directly affect her son's education.
On Tuesday morning of this week, Austin showed up with 5-year-old Cole, who has autism, and his new border collie/Lab mix Zeke, to start the extended-year program at Dr. Crisp Elementary School. Austin was met at the door by the special education director who explained that she, her son and service dog would have to leave until she agrees that the decision to allow the dog would be only temporary.
"They just told my son he can't have his education because he has a service dog," she told the Nashua Telegraph.
The agreement Austin was asked to sign reportedly said the district had not determined whether Cole's disability "requires the use of a service animal" or that Zeke "qualifies as a service animal".
Austin said she already gave the school the necessary documents, including the doctor's order for a service animal, proof that Zeke is a certified service animal, proof of insurance and verification of the dog's health. She told the Telegraph that the dog is trained to act as an "anchor" to keep Cole from running away, to help keep him calm, and to help him gain more social skills.
Tuesday afternoon, Austin told the paper that the school's superintendent phoned to say he decided any student with a service animal would be allowed -- as long as all of the parties meet and agreed that they felt comfortable with the situation.
A spokesman with the U.S. Department of Justice pointed out that, under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, schools must allow service animals except when the animal poses a threat to others.
"Autistic boy with service dog turned away from school" (Nashua Telegraph)
"School creates obstacle for autistic child with dog" (Nashua Telegraph)