Employment Law Report
U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division Rules that School District Staff Must Assist Student with Handling of Service Dog
On April 13, 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division issued a ruling stemming from an investigation of the Gates-Chili Central School District (DJ No. 204-53-128) located in Rochester, New York. A complaint was filed against the school district by the parent of a student attending elementary school in the District. According to the ruling, the complaint alleged that the District refused to permit the child’s service dog, who is trained as a seizure alert dog, in school unless the parent provided a separate, full-time, adult handler. Due to the student’s physical limitations, she required intermittent assistance in tethering and untethering the dog and with vocalizing a limited number of commands. While it appears that the District provided a 1:1 aide for the child, the aide was not authorized to assist with the service animal and was not provided for all school-related activities, such as on the bus.
The U.S. DOJ found that providing the requested assistance to the student “falls well within the range of support and assistance that school staff provides to young children day in and day out. Accordingly, the District must reasonably modify its current ‘hands off’ policy” with respect to the service dog. The full decision can be found here, and is an interesting and important read for all school districts and similarly situated entities governed by Title II of the ADA.