“Service” dog includes calming child in class
Under an Illinois law, “service” animals such as a seeing-eye dog are allowed in schools. However, two school districts in 2009 took a position that dogs for autistic children were not truly service animals. They denied their owners use of them at school expressing concern for other children in the class who had allergies or were afraid of them.
Chewey is a yellow Labrador retriever and a helper dog for first-grader Kaleb Drew. Kaleb is autistic and Chewey helps him deal with his disability by keeping him safe and calm in class. His mother said Chewey also keeps Kaleb from running in front of cars in the school parking lot.
This is a balancing of rights, isn’t it? Kaleb has a right, as every child in the United States, to an education. Under the Americans With Disabilities Act [ADA] of 1990, disabilities are not obstacles to getting a public education. Schools are required to accomodate students so that their education is not limited or denied.
What could a school do to help students with or without service dogs co-exist in the same classroom? What about the child who is afraid of dogs? Should teachers be trained in handling the animals? Should students be prepared in advance to welcome a classmate with a service dog?