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

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

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?

Keep Reading By Author Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.
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