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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

Should a Disabled Student Have the Right to a Service Dog in School?

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Mar 12th 2008

 The East Meadow School District in New York State was ordered by the Commissioner of Human Rights to allow a 16 year old deaf student to bring his service dog, Simba to school with him. The school district had ruled that he would not be allowed to bring Simba because the dog provided no instructional or safety service to this deaf student in school. The district argued that the High School provides for the safety and well being of all students, both handicapped and healthy. In addition, they argued that the dog could be a health threat to students with allergies to dogs.

The Commissioner of Human Rights in New York State argued that state law provides the absolute right to those who are disabled to have guide, hearing or service dogs in school. The school was ordered to allow the student to bring his hearing service dog to school.

The family of the boy asserts that the dog, Simba, alerts John, the student, to students who call him or try to get his attention and alerts him to fire alarms and other such messages that depend on being able to hear. Also, John' parents stated that he was trained in how to handle Simba, a certified and licensed Delta Society Dog.

It probably goes without saying that, being deaf; the dog provides a sense of safety and security to John whenever he is out of the house.

Should an impaired or handicapped student, whether deaf, blind, or psychiatrically impaired with some type of anxiety or phobic or depressive disorder be allowed to bring a trained and certified dog to school? What about the rights of other students who might have allergies or be fearful of dogs. Do we cater too much to the handicapped?

In my opinion the answer to these questions is simple: Yes, people with serious disabilities should be allowed to have their trained dogs accompany them to places such as school, restaurants, movies, shopping malls and airports and on airplanes. My wife trains service dogs and for those with psychiatric disabilities. She also trains the clients in how to use these unique dogs. I have seen the huge benefit they have for people who, without them, could not function.

What is your opinion?

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at dransphd@aol.com for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Dogs to harass, but not to help? - Kimberly Wilder - Oct 18th 2009

I live in Long Island. And, I am constantly schocked by how foolish people are, in having more desire to control and punish people who are different, and less desire to help people who are different.

In the East Meadow Schools, a boy who would like a helper dog is denied, partly due to the fact that the school says it could harm students who have allergies.

In other schools - including Sachem Schools district, and now proposed in Smithtown - the schools are using drug-sniffing dogs at the schools.

What hypocrisy.

For now, the drug-sniffing dogs are said to go in the building when students are not there. But, couldn't allergies be triggered by dander?

It is ironic that a community and a set of bureacrats could sing a different tune at a different time, depending on whether the situation helps their "power", or merely helps a student become empowered.

 

Yes to Service Dogs in School - James - Mar 11th 2009

The law says if a child needs a service dog and it is well trained as one and can lay by the student with out getting up tell the handler says to then it is able to go to school with them.

The schools could get sued for not letting her/him with their service dog. Think before you pass a law! What if your child needed a service dog with them at school, you wouldn't be doing this law would you!

Service Dogs - Pam - Oct 4th 2008

I have a service dog and if it was not for my service dog, I wouldn't go any were, I have Seizure, Asthma, and anxity also hearing problems. If You dont have a handicap, then you don't know how much help these service dogs are to us, Please don't say children, teenagers don't need their service dog with them at school or adult don't need a Service dog with them. If you never had a handicap don't just think we are taking are pets out in public. Try walking in are shoe and see how hard it is for us to do daily thinks.

It would be like saying people with red hair can co to public school or go out in public. Just give us a break, we want to live the best life we can.

Why not try to help someone by self-training a dog to be a service dog for some one. then you will see what the dog as to do for us in are daily life.

People with Disabilities with Service Animals - On Call 24/7 - Apr 10th 2008

Time and time again the same old story about whether or not a school should say no to allowing service animals in. They have jumped on the band wagon as some businesses use to try claiming the fearful or being allergic to dogs syndrome.  While there are many people that are pet owners that has more dander then one with a service animal as they are always groomed so they could be out in public. I know hard to believe but did you hug your pet today??? Do you have pet dander and fur on your clothing???? Chances are yes and then you are quite close to another person that just may be allergic to dogs.

Did you groom and bathe your dogs before going to work so there wouldn't be dander on you as you would transfer this dander air bound???  I doubt it as that is not a normal thing one would do!  I know I wouldn't think of that if I didn't have a service animal myself.

 Most people with their service animals will accommodate others as well. Meaning if in the same class room go to the opposite side of the room away from that individual. Or change their schedule as in todays society it's not like one class room for everybody.

 Yes there maybe individuals that has severe allergies that would cause a life and death situation. That would be a disability within itself! 

For people that are fearful of dogs this too could be taken care of without denying a person with a service animal their right! Again in todays society changes are that they will be not in the same classes and if so changing schedules are not so hard. They were when I went to school but not today.

We in todays society cannot say a person is not too disable so therefore they do not have the right to be accompanied by a service animal. As long as a person has a qualified disability under the ADA and their animals is a Service Animal under the definition on ADA then they have the right to choose which method would be appropriate for their independence!   

 

Animals in the service of man - Paul Dymon - Mar 15th 2008

Hello Doctor Schwartz,

Having raised four Golden Retrievers for Canine Companions we learned about people.  My children (not disabled) brought canines to school as part of socilization training.  Even the class bully wants to be loved by our dogs.  Why?  It's that unconditional love that pours from the dog-human team.  We brought dogs to Vegas casinos, again to expose them to higher level distractions.  I can't imagine a greater social tool... for the person.  Animals are instant conversation, instant friendships, and an extra extention of care.

We did the same social training with a Helping Hands Monkey.  Again, the partnership between Capuchin monkey and human parter is unparalleled.  They don't take time off.  Not one moment, and they are brilliant, proficient at so many tasks including feeding, grooming, answering phones, inserting tapes or discs, turning pages, giving love.  Who wouldn't support that?  These animals are cleaner and better cared for than many unfortunate kids.  How many households out of 10 have pets?  Alergy can't be argued unless you live in a bubble!

We support three non-profits.  Canine, monkey, and dolphin therapy is our latest discovery.  For info see the links from our site: http://hd2o.tv

Regards, 

Service Dogs. - JR - Mar 13th 2008

Dr Schwartz, Dr Schwartz!  First sex, and now disabled rights!  One might concude that you are anxious to promote, dare I say, controversy?

 Seriously, I am not keen on dogs myself (very much a cat person), but I find it difficult to believe that it should not be possible to accommodate the presence of a guide dog in such a way that it does not unreasonably infringe the rights of persons who are allergic to/have more general difficulties with the canine species.  I am not exactly unfamiliar with the situations that may arise.  I trained as a barrister (court advocate) alonside a class member (blind) whose guide dog was not exactly an asset to the rest of us - and this in the context of an academic/court system that still owes a very great deal to the early 19th century.  I need say no more.  We managed, and my former student coleague is now a successful (if somewhat six-footed) advocate in the courts.

I am not by nature a wishy-washy liberal.  However, and apart from issues of purely personal rights, it seems to me that institutions such as those of higher education should take all reasonable measures to facilitate persons with disabilities in their function, simply in the interests of ensuring that the best possible people (disabled or not) make the best possible contribution to the attainment of their objectives, in the interests of their clients/customers or for themselves.  In a civilised society, is this an unreasonable expectation?  Seeing my former student colleague proceed along the corridors of our central court complex, complete with the Woof, and albeit with a certain amount of attendant chaos, I think not.

Happy St. Patrick's Day,

JR

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