The mother of a 9-year-old asked the Yellow Springs school board Thursday to allow her son’s service dog to join him in the classroom.
Judy Kintner asked the district to incorporate a service dog into her son’s individual education plan. However, the plan she received on Aug. 26 did not include the dog.
Kintner said her request had nothing to do with the quality of education and help her son, Jonah, received from Mills Lawn Elementary School.
Superintendent Mario Basora has said neither he nor the board could comment given student privacy rights and possible pending litigation. Board President Dr. Benji Maruyama told the packed small meeting room that Basora is “working carefully so that the matter is resolved in as good a way as possible.”
Despite the accommodations for her son, “there are things only a dog can do, and I want those things for Jonah. His odds of graduating from high school are not great, but I want him to graduate,” she told the board.
Kintner said the federal Americans With Disabilities Act clearly allows the boy’s dog, Clank, in the classroom. She said she has worked with the district’s administration for more than year to get Clank as part of her son’s individual education plan.
The boy’s plan from the school does include a number of accommodations for the child’s physical, mental and learning disabilities.
“It’s an awesome IEP,” she said. “But Clank is another tool, and I feel I need to give (my son) absolutely every tool in the tool box.”
Karen Shirk, founder of the internationally known 4 Paws for Ability in Xenia, which trained Clank and his family, said service dogs under the ADA are allowed in all public accommodations, including schools.
Shirk, however, was disappointed that Kintner went to the media with the issue.
“The proper measure — and we teach the parents this — is come to us, and let us talk to the school. In 75 percent to 85 percent of the cases, we can educate the school. That is a more professional way to do it,” she said.
Shirk said one of the common issues in the classroom is who will be the handler of the dog. “The child, clearly, is not able to do that,” she said. The ADA does not require a school to provide a handler, she said.
Kintner said that she, a 21-year-old son and a friend — both of whom attend training — will act as handlers.
Clank is necessary for her son, Kintner said, to ease her son’s anxiety, something she believes the golden retriever can do better than any of the IEP accommodations.
Kintner has spoken with Shirk and disagrees. “I told her she had done her job in training the dog, and I am doing my job bringing this to the board. I would prefer to bring public pressure to this than to file a lawsuit.”
Kintner is scheduled to meet Monday with Basora. She said Shirk will be at the meeting.
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