This article raises questions about 504 plans and/or IEPs: Parent Sues School District Over Service Dog For Son With Cerebral Palsy. In this case, a parent of a child with a disability is suing the school district because the district isn’t allowing his child to bring in his service dog. I have yet to see anything like this in the Denver area, but it wouldn’t necessarily surprise me. Many people may look at a story like this and think it’s ridiculous, but it actually raises some important questions.
In this case, the school is placed in between a rock and a hard spot. Most likely, this student is on a 504 plan or an IEP, both of which are designed to assist special needs students. Clearly, a student with cerebral palsy has special needs. Federal law requires that such students be given reasonable accommodations to aid them. The parent here is arguing that the dog is a reasonable accommodation, and that’s not a far-fetched argument. We’ve all seen service dogs perform very important work for people with special needs. The school knows that it has a legal duty to accommodate this child, but it also has a conflicting duty: it must protect every other student in the building.
The school probably is thinking about what would happen if a dog bit another student. It also may be thinking that the dog would be a distraction, since kids (and adults — especially me) love dogs.
Ultimately, I predict the school is going to have to make concessions to the family and allow the dog in. There’s no reason that the school cannot simultaneously allow this child to have this dog while simultaneously developing reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of the rest of the students in the school.