Can an assistance dog go to school?
In most cases the answer is yes; however, it will require the approval of an accommodation request.
Most parents of our school-age clients have had experience with promoting accommodations for their child’s diabetes management within the school setting. They have developed plans to support the child in their blood sugar testing, administration of insulin and treating episodes of hypoglycemia or other adverse consequences associated with their disease. The request to obtain access for a hypoglycemic-alerting service dog will be an extension of the same process that has been used for other forms of accommodations.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, schools are prohibited from discriminating against students with disabilities. The ADA applies to public and private schools as well as schools that receive federal funds and that are not operated by religious organizations. Schools operated by religious organizations and that do not receive federal funding are not covered, but contract and tort law may provide some protection to students at such schools.
What if the local school authorities deny this request?
D4D has found that while some requests have met initial resistance at the local level due to a lack of understanding of the law; once the request reached the proper decision-making levels within the school district, all requests have ultimately been approved. Any adverse decision should always be appealed.
There are various forms of appeal that can be considered, such as through the school or district’s grievance procedures. Also, appeals may be pursued via legal avenues set up under Section 504 rules up to and including options to file a formal complaint to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
D4D has found that dealing with an accommodation request for an assistance dog sometimes requires education of school personnel and the public to help them understand the disabilities associated with diabetes and the benefits to the student offered by the service dog. Proceeding with this request in a positive mode will eventually work to the benefit of all involved in the process.
With the pro-bono assistance of the law firm of Morrison & Forester, D4D has developed a comprehensive lesson module for its clients in order to address school accommodations in its training program; however, there are also many materials available to the general public that provide insight into this issue.
Additional Information & Resources
A detailed summary of legal rights for persons with diabetes is available at:
Americans with Disabilities Act
U.S. Dept. of Education, Civil Rights Office
National Dissemination Center for Children & Youth With Disabilities
A Guide to Disability Rights Laws
Guide to Disability Rights Laws
California Legal Codes with ADA Penalties
California Service Dog Laws
The information on this website is provided for informational purposes and should not be taken as legal advice. Any questions regarding your rights under law should be directed to your own attorney.