Service Animals In School

by Fisher Phillips
Contact

Joey is a 5th grade student who is hearing impaired. Joey’s parents request that he be allowed to attend school with his service dog, Snickers. You learn that Joey’s teacher is severely allergic to animal dander. You are also aware that several students in Joey’s class are afraid of dogs. What do you do?

While you may have concerns about permitting dogs in your school, both federal and state laws limit the circumstances under which you may exclude such service animals. In fact, Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires covered entities, which includes private and public schools, to “modify policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a service animal by an individual with a disability.”  

In addition, schools that receive federal financial assistance – including religious schools that may be exempt from Title III – must comply with the requirements of section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. While it does not appear that Florida’s service animal statute applies to schools, several states, including Alabama, Illinois, and New Jersey, have laws giving students with disabilities the right to bring their service animal to school.

What Is A Service Animal?

The Justice Department (DOJ) regulations to the ADA define “service animal” as “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.”  When most people think of service animals, they think of guide dogs.

But as the DOJ regulations make clear, animals are now trained to provide far more services such as alerting individuals who are deaf to the presence of people or sounds, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors.

Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA. However, state and local laws may define service animal more broadly to include emotional support animals.

What Information Or Documentation May You Require?

In determining whether to approve or deny a student’s request to bring a service dog to school, administrators may ask: 1) whether the dog is required because of a disability, and 2) what work or task the dog has been trained to perform. According to DOJ guidance, you may not ask about the nature or extent of the student’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task identified. Moreover, the school may not charge  students more because they bring a service animal to school. 

When Can You Refuse A Request?

Of course, the ADA provides exceptions to the accommodation requirement, such as when the animal is a direct threat to others, or when the presence of the animal would fundamentally alter the program or service provided. But service animals are unlikely to create safety or threat problems given their specialized training and desensitization to distractions. The more likely problem is keeping other students from treating the animal like a pet when the animal is “working.” 

Schools may ask that the service animal be removed from the premises if the dog is out of control or not housebroken. When there is a legitimate reason to ask that a service animal be removed, the school must offer the student with the disability the opportunity to attend classes without the animal’s presence.

The DOJ takes the position that allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals. Thus, when a person who is allergic to dog dander and a person who uses a service animal must spend time in the same room or facility, as, for example, in our scenario above, the DOJ recommends that both individuals be accommodated by assigning them, if possible, to different locations within the room or different rooms in the facility.

A school’s failure to comply with the law regarding service animals could result in either an investigation by DOJ or a private lawsuit. Service-animal issues are growing and somewhat complicated.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Fisher Phillips | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Fisher Phillips
Contact
more
less

Fisher Phillips on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.