School Board Reverses Position On Teen's Service Dog
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 5, 2006
CALGARY, ALBERTA--The Calgary Board of Education has back away from its policy banning animals from schools, after a 15-year-old student brought documents proving that he needs a service animal, and that his dog Kodak has been properly trained.
Cooper James, an 11th grade student at Dr. E.P. Scarlett High School, received the standard poodle from the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides in June. Kodak helps Cooper, who has spinal muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair, by opening doors, picking up dropped items and helping him to stand if he falls.
Last Thursday, board officials said Cooper could not bring Kodak, that their policies forbid animals on school property because other students and staff might be allergic to them or afraid of them.
"I do not believe the school has the power to say the dog can and cannot go into school," Cooper told CTV News. "I believe he's just a third arm to me. I believe he should be able to go anywhere I go."
Cooper's mother, Avvis James, told reporters that Kodak does not shed, and therefore is not likely to cause allergy problems. She also pointed out that the dog was specially chosen because of his gentleness.
"These are Grade 11 students," she said. "They're not little children, you know. Cooper is a responsible 15-year-old and this dog is not going to cause any trouble."
Mrs. James said Friday that she had consulted an attorney and was filing a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission.
Board officials then said that the dog might be able to accompany Cooper to school, if he brings a note from his doctor and the Lions Foundation saying he needs to have Kodak with him at all times.
On Tuesday, the board said Cooper could attend -- with Kodak at his side, after he brought the documentation they asked for.
His mother said that the battle is not yet over. She explained that the law allows service dogs in public places, and that her son should not have to prove anything to the school.
"To me we have to jump through all these hoops to prove to them that Cooper needs the dog," she said. "Well, look at Cooper -- he's in a wheelchair. He has enough to deal with."