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New Jersey School District to Adopt Service Animal Policies and Pay Fine to Resolve Justice Department Investigation
June 24, 2014
The Justice Department announced today that it reached a settlement with the Delran Township School District in New Jersey under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The agreement resolves allegations that the school district violated the ADA by refusing to allow a student with autism and encephalopathy to have his service dog in school or at school-related activities. The service dog alerts to seizures, provides mobility and body support and mitigates the symptoms of his autism.
The department found that the mother of the student spent six months responding to burdensome requests for information and documentation, and still the school district refused to allow the student to be accompanied by his service dog. Despite her efforts, the student was even prevented from bringing his service dog with him on the bus for his end of the year field trip. Instead, his mother followed the school bus with the service dog in her car.
Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in public schools. Under the ADA, public schools must generally modify policies, practices or procedures to permit the use of a service dog by a student with a disability at school and school-related activities. Because service dogs must be under the control of a handler, students often act as the handler of their own service dog; when that is not possible, the family may provide an independent handler, as the family offered to do here.
The school district worked cooperatively with the department throughout the investigation. Under the agreement, the school district will pay $10,000 to the family to compensate them for the harm they endured as a result of the school district actions. In addition, the school district will adopt an ADA-compliant service animal policy and provide training to designated staff on the school district obligations under Title II of the ADA, including requirements related to service dogs.
“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 Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division will vigorously enforce the ADA to ensure that students who use service animals have a full and equal opportunity to participate in all school activities with their peers.”
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