Join the GOOGLE +Rubber Room Community

Friday, August 28, 2015

The NYC Department of Education Has No Policy For Service or Therapy Dogs Working in Public Schools

When my youngest daughter was attending PS 6 on Manhattan's upper east side, I asked the Principal, Carmen Farina, if I could start a lunch club for 4th and 5th graders to focus on ways children could help other people, any age. Carmen loved the idea, so I ran the lunch club every Monday during lunchtime for the 12 4th and fifth graders who signed up. We met in the cafeteria, or the library when we had guest speakers.
Carmen Farina

I loved this group of kids - they showed me an eagerness to help anyone in need that gave me great faith in the positive contributions they would make as adults.

I brought in people who spoke about the Mayor's Voluntary Action Center, the Foundling Hospital, Red Cross, police station, and many other organizations. However, when I asked Carmen whether we could bring in service dogs, she told me absolutely not, no way, no, no, no. So I did not pursue the matter, but I did research on the policy of the Department of Education on the presence of service dogs in public schools, and there was nothing that I could find.

I wonder what children who needed their service animals did? Stayed home?

Betsy Combier, Editor
President, ADVOCATZ

Service dogs in the classroom pose
a challenge for city's public schools

Diane C. Lore | lore@siadvance.comBy Diane C. Lore | 
Follow on Twitter 
on August 27, 2015 at 6:00 AM, updated August 27, 2015 at 1:36 PM
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- From one-on-one para-professionals to help students with disabilities to extra time for testing, accommodations of all sorts are made for special-needs students in the city's public schools.
But there is one that -- although rare -- poses a significant challenge for principals: Service dogs in the classroom.
That dilemma came to light just recently for the head of a South Shore elementary school who had to go to some fairly extreme measures to prepare the school for the arrival of a student with a service dog in September, including the need to shift a teacher with canine allergies and juggling classes.
Administrators are hoping that further issues won't arise once classes begin.
The city's Department of Education (DOE) says it must follow the law and make accommodations for a child with special needs whose IEP (individual education plan) requires the child have a service dog in class.
The DOE, however, has no policy for how teachers and administrators should handle the animal during the school day.
Under the DOE "home-zoning" of special education students through the "Shared Plan for Success" reforms, children with an IEP must be accommodated at their zoned district school, which often leaves administrators to scramble.
According to the DOE there are fewer than 10 students in Staten Island's District 31 schools with an IEP that requires a service dog. And in most of those cases, parents have had to go to court to force compliance.
Who cares for the dog during the school day?
Who is responsible for feeding and walking the dog?
What happens if another child is allergic to the dog?
What happens if the dog becomes aggressive toward another child or teacher?
These questions are a gray area for administrators, according to the New York State School Boards Association, (NYSSBA), which recently issued a brief on the issue.
"Service animals can help people with a variety of disabilities, such as hearing impairments, physical handicaps and sight impairments. Service animals often develop strong bonds with their owners, and a student with a disability may request the companionship of his or her service animal in school.
"However. . . the presence of the animal could trigger allergic reactions or anxiety among other students, some of whom may also have a disability and rights under law.
"Therefore, a student who requests the presence of a service animal in school presents a complicated issue that requires legal counsel," the NYSSBA concluded.
Special education advocate Andrea Lella said service dogs are more likely to be found in classrooms at schools that serve students with a specific disability, including those who may be visually or hearing impaired, or non-ambulatory. These schools are more likely to have a policy and staff trained to handle the dogs, she noted.
"With DOE cases involving a child in a zoned school who requires a dog on his or her IEP, they almost always involve a lawsuit," Lella said. She said the DOE provides no policy, training or guidelines for principals and teachers, and most zoned schools are not equipped to handle a dog during the school day.
A DOE spokesman said the school system follows federal guidelines governing service dogs, under the Americans With Disability Act (ADA).
According to the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Disability Rights section, service animals are defined as "dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person's disability."
The ADA guidelines also say that "allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals."
"When a person who is allergic to dog dander and a person who uses a service animal must spend time in the same room or facility, for example, in a school classroom, they both should be accommodated by assigning them, if possible, to different locations within the room or different rooms in the facility."
Under the guidelines, service dogs must also be "leashed, harnessed or tethered," and "staff is not required to provide care and food for the animal."
While the DEO is required to comply with the determined need for a service dog, "therapy" or "comfort" animals are not covered by the same federal regulations.
NWS therapy dogTherapy or comfort dogs are not covered by the same guidelines as service animals. (File photo) 
A therapy dog is trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, hospices, disaster areas, and to people with learning difficulties.
While they sometimes can be both, therapy dogs are usually not assistance or service animals.

Indiana State Teachers' Association President Teresa Meredith Speaks Out About The Teacher Shortage

Mike has one of the best blogs on the internet.

Betsy Combier, Editor
President, ADVOCATZ

Union President on “Teacher Shortage”: “Who Cares What the Data Says?”

Stop what you’re doing and follow this link to Shaina Cavazos’ story in today’sChalkbeat Indiana about the latest teacher shortage frenzy.

The takeaway? “…the problem isn’t the number of certified teachers but a mismatch between them and available jobs. And the situation isn’t as bad or out of the ordinary as recent media coverage has suggested.”

The story even quotes University of Pennsylvania professor Richard Ingersoll. “Almost every president since Eisenhower has given a speech on teacher shortage … we’ve spent umpteen dollars trying to fix this over the last half-century,” Ingersoll said. “But this is the wrong diagnosis and the wrong prescription … It’s not an under-supply, it’s too much turnover.”

That’s a wonderful admission, except there isn’t too much turnover, either.

But the prize goes to Indiana State Teachers Association president Teresa Meredith. “There really is a climate that’s been created, and we have to look at the climate and figure out how to fix it,” she said. “Who cares what the data says because when you have administrators who don’t have applicants before the first day of school, there’s a shortage, end of story.”
Teresa Meredith

“Who cares what the data says?” Spoken like the president of an organization that ran a “Ponzi-like scheme” with taxpayer funds for teachers’ long-term disability benefits.