Health

Mother Fights School District For Her Son's Service Dog

| by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades
Autism Service Dog.Autism Service Dog.

Jennifer McDonald is fighting for her son John’s right to have a service dog in class.

So far, it has been an uphill battle.

John, 6, has autism. He is nonverbal and runs away when he feels anxious and his parents worry he’ll escape the school. He has a service dog named Kai that’s supposed to accompany him at school — Middleton Elementary in Sherwood, Oregon. But Sherwood School District has refused to provide an aide to oversee the dog, meaning Kai can’t go to class. John hasn’t been able to take Kai to school for three months.

On March 11, Jennifer decided to take a stand. She took John and Kai to class and hoped that the school staff would let the dog into class, but she was stopped by Middleton Principal Jeremiah Patterson.

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Patterson told Jennifer the district had decided her family must provide a handler for the dog, despite the fact that school staff has been trained to work with Kai.

The Oregonian reported the school district issued a statement on the issue and said that if Kai was left at school unattended, he would be kept in a "safe and secure area until the parents returned to the school to handle the dog.”

Jennifer took Kai home.

“We just wanted to try this to get something going," Jennifer said, adding that a recent court case in Florida has pushed her to fight for John’s right to have Kai in class. In that case, the judge ruled the school must provide a handler for service animals.

Jennifer said she and her husband, Scott, cannot afford a handler, nor can they afford to quit their jobs to watch Kai in the classroom all day.

The school district claims the Americans with Disabilities Act states that they’re not responsible for supervising a service animal, but the family’s lawyer said it is misinterpreting the regulations. 

The Sherwood School District said it would consider the case in Florida and "would be prepared to make a decision after an opportunity to study legal advice from its attorney, as well as any legal authority furnished by the parents' attorney.”

In the meantime, the family has filed a complaint with the Department of Justice. The investigation is pending.

Source: The Oregonian

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons