The mother of a girl with a rare genetic disorder is fighting to get her school district to provide a handler to accompany her daughter and her service dog on the school bus and in the classroom.
Devyn Pereira has a rare genetic disorder that is a combination of autism and epilepsy. She suffers from seizures and cannot speak.
Fortunately, Devyn’s service dog, Hanna, not only helps the 7-year-old girl communicate and recover from seizures, but also acts as her guide and companion on the school bus and in the classroom.
However, Devyn and Hanna cannot go on the bus or be in the classroom without a handler to help with verbal commands.
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Devyn's mother, Heather Pereira, pays an aide to accompany Devyn on the bus and at school; now, however, she is fighting to get the Gates-Chili School District to provide a handler or to let Devyn’s classroom aide take on these duties.
Pereira said she tried to talk with the school district about the matter.
When the talks failed, however, she and her lawyers filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice. Pereira claims the district is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by not helping Devyn use her service dog at school.
ABC13 reports that Pereira learned in a letter that the Department of Justice had opened the case and was investigating the alleged civil rights violation. According to Pereira, investigators spent a day with Devyn and Hanna at school; they also spent the last year collection evidence.
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Pereira said that while it is frustrating to have to fight for a right her daughter deserves, she is willing to take the case to federal court. She also noted that she is hoping for a settlement because she struggles, as a single parent, to pay for the costs of a caretaker.
To help cover the costs, she has taken out personal loans, and has received support from the community.
Now, she is once again asking people to support her fight and believes that the support of the public could help get the Department of Justice to rule in her favor.
This is not the first time Pereira has had to fight for her daughter’s rights. Three years ago, she fought the district to allow Devyn and her service dog to ride the bus to school.
Pereira has said that her current fight isn’t just about her daughter. Instead, she also wants to make it easier for other families whose children have service dogs, so that they will not have to fight—as she has had to fight—to get their children what they deserve.