Saturday, August 22, 2009

Illinois judge rules that school must allow boy with autism to take his service dog to class

From KTVI-TV in Illinois:

WATERLOO, Ill. -- An autistic boy will be allowed to take his new service dog to school in Columbia, Ill. Monroe County Circuit Judge Dennis Doyle issued a preliminary injunction ordering the Columbia School District to permit the highly trained dog to accompany Carter Kalbfleisch (pictured) to his special needs class.

The judge cited an Illinois state law that permits children with disabilities to have service animals in school if the animals help them complete beneficial tasks . The school district attorney had argued the dog had nothing to do with the child's educational needs. Christi Flaherty insisted since the dog was not part of the child's IEP or individual education plan, the animal should not be allowed.

The five year old boy's mother, Melissa Kalbfleisch testified that after just one month of working with the dog, her son could calm down and focus on tasks without throwing disruptive tantrums. For the first time, she and her husband were able to take Carter on family excursions and shopping trips. Kalbfleisch said she and her husband are trained to handle the dog in public. She plans to come to school with her child to be sure there are no problems.

Judge Doyle said that in addition to the state law he was impressed by the fact two doctors had prescribed the service dog as an aide to the child.

Shannon Crook, who identified herself as a new resident of the school district, testified her child has a rare lung disease and must be hospitalized when he is exposed to dogs or cats. The judge ordered both sides back to court on August 24 to work out the logistics of how to safely introduce the dog, Corbin, to the school setting.
No date has been set for a court hearing on a permanent injunction in this case. One of the attorneys for the Kalbfleisch family said they remain open to "working with the school district to try to accomplish our mutual goals.

School district attorney Flaherty left the courthouse without talking to reporters.