A mother in Massachusetts is battling her son’s school district so the boy can take his service dog to classes.
Ericha Flateau recently told WCVB her 7-year-old son, Austin, needs the dog with him 24 hours a day.
Austin was born with a brain malformation that delays his speech and also causes seizures. His service dog, Paris, has been trained to help calm him when he becomes frustrated while trying to speak. But, most importantly, Paris can detect when Austin is going to have a seizure.
“Dogs can smell a chemical change when a seizure starts,” Flateau explained. “She could save his life.”
Austin was paired with Paris in October. Now Flateau has to figure out how to ensure the dog stays with her son all day long.
Officials at Austin’s school, Davis Thayer Elementary School, have said Paris can attend classes but she must be accompanied by a handler.
“For whatever reason, the school district will not allow any school staff to be the dog handler,” Flateau told Fox News.
The district has told Flateau she needs to provide the handler, or come to classes herself.
That requirement has kept Austin from attending classes since October.
“I cannot afford to hire a third-party dog handler, and I also can’t afford not to go to work myself,” she said. “So [Paris] has been home with him since we returned from training.”
The Franklin School District said it can’t discuss individual cases but did release a statement saying it “fully provides and promotes access for all individuals with disabilities, including those that require the assistance of service animals.” However, the district also pointed to a law that says a “public entity is not responsible for the care or supervision of a service animal.”
That is disappointing to Flateau who already worked to raise $15,000 to pay for Paris’ training.
“It's frustrating because I want it to work so badly and I know it can,” she said.
If she is unable to reach a resolution with the district, Flateau said she may have to consider moving to an area where the schools will be more accommodating.