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Court Rejects Request to Allow Student to Have His Service Dog at School

A federal appeals court today ruled against a family seeking to compel a school district to allow a service dog to accompany a student with a hearing impairment at school.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, in New York City, ruled unanimously that the parents had failed to exhaust their administrative remedies under federal special education law before suing the East Meadow Union Free School District.

According to the decision, the parents had asked school officials to allow their son to bring his service dog, Simba, to school. The dog would help alert the student to sounds and would increase his independence, the parents claimed.

School officials denied the request on the grounds that the student's education program would have to be modified to avoid exposing allergic students and teachers to the dog, according to court papers.

A federal district judge had denied the family's request for an injunction. The appeals court said the district court should not have even considered the case because the family did not exhaust administrative procedures under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

In 2006, my Education Week colleague Christina Samuels wrote a nice feature story about the issue of service and "skilled companion" animals in the schools.

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