Service dogs in our public schools?

Stanley J. Vitello, Esq., of Hopewell
At issue is whether a service dog constitutes a reasonable accommodation under current federal disability law — Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act , the Individual with Disabilities Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
There is a presumption in these federal laws that a student with a disability has a civil right to a service dog and related service under (IDEA).
An amendment to ADA reads, “Public schools shall modify their policies, practices and procedures to permit the use of a service animal by an individual with a disability.”
The IDEA requires a service dog be considered a related service in the student’s IEP.
While there are these presumptions under federal law, they can be rebutted. A case-by-case analysis is required to determine whether a service dog should be provided.
In short, a balancing test must be conducted to determent whether the presence of a service dog is harmful to other students in the class and school.
Evidence must be presented that the service dog service provides a nexus between the service and progress in meeting IEP goals and objectives. Has the student with a disability been trained to respond appropriately given the service dog accommodation?
Dog services are not required to provide comfort or emotional support to the student with a disability. Students with disabilities cannot be denied service dogs services if it affects a student with an allergy. That student can be placed in another class.
Moreover, the child study team can recommend less drastic intervention to address the student’s disability.
A service dog accommodation is not required to provide emotional support when the service dog is out of control and cannot be managed by the student. To date, there is very little litigation on the legal issues raised on service dogs in public schools.
The Hopewell Valley Regional School District Board of Education in its deliberations can provide parents, school officials and all students with and without disabilities a just and reasoned policy. 
Stanley J. Vitello, Esq. 
Hopewell 