Sunday, September 21, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Autistic student wins right for guide dog in Delran

DELRAN Disabled children will be allowed to bring their service animals to school under a settlement announced Tuesday between the Delran Township School District and the U.S. Justice Department.

The department alleges that the district discriminated against an autistic boy who, during the 2012-13 school year, when he was 8, was not permitted to bring his service dog to school or even on a class trip. His mother spent six months of that year responding to district requests for information and documentation.

The district disputes the facts in the case, according to the settlement, but has agreed to change its policies and pay the boy's family $10,000 in damages.

"The old view of service animals working only as guide dogs for individuals who are blind has given way to a new generation of service animals trained to perform tasks that further autonomy and independence for individuals with a myriad of disabilities," said Jocelyn Samuels, acting assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division.

"The Civil Rights Division will vigorously enforce the [Americans With Disabilities Act] to ensure that students who use service animals have a full and equal opportunity to participate in all school activities with their peers," Samuels added.

The school district did not respond to a request for comment.

The boy and his family were not identified in the settlement.

In addition to autism, the child has development coordination disorder and encephalopathy. His service dog was trained to alert others when the boy was going to have a seizure, provide mobility support for the child's core body weakness, and prevent him from wandering off.

The dog had also been taught to apply deep pressure to prevent or limit meltdowns and disrupt "stimming" - the repetitive or unusual movements or sounds that people with autism sometimes make. - Rita Giordano

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