Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Area News

May 7, 2012

School policies get second nod

CROSSVILLE — Though there were questions and concerns regarding a policy to govern the use of service animals in schools, that and other policies received approval for second and final reading at the Cumberland County Board of Education's April 26 meeting.

Sandra Brewer, 3rd District representative, questioned issues of liability for service animals in the school as well as issues of allergies and smaller children who fear the animals.

"Also, who determines if it is a service dog?" Brewer asked. "It can't just be a family pet. There are certified trainers and organizations. We need to make sure that is required."

Keena Inman, special education supervisor, said, "I share your concerns. This is new territory. The Americans with Disabilities Act says the animals has to be there for the purpose of a child's disability. Just because a child is disabled, it doesn't mean they need a dog. The animal has to be directly related to assisting the student with the disability."

She said parents wishing to have a service dog or miniature horse attend school with their child would have to apply in writing to the director of schools. There would also be an individual educational plan meeting. If personnel determined the school system could meet the needs of the child without the animal being in the school system, the request could be denied. There were procedures in place for the parent to challenge that denial.

"As for the allergies and fears of other students, the ADA doesn't really address those," Inman said.

She noted the proposed policy was modeled after the policy in use in Sequatchie County, and that the Tennessee School Boards Association had not sent a sample policy to use as guidance; however, school systems are required to have a service animal policy in place.

"Other directors I've talked with have said they've had positive outcomes form having the animals in the schools," Inman said. "It's turned out to be a benefit for the school system."

As for liability issues, board attorney Earl Patton said he would need to research the issue to offer a definitive answer; however, he added, "If we're doing something the ADA requires us to do, I don't see how we can be held liable. It's a tricky issue."

Brewer moved to approve the second reading of the policy, supported by Richard Janeway, 2nd District representative. It was unanimously approved.

Also approved on second and final reading were revisions to policies regarding compensation, special use of school vehicles, application and employment and assignment and transfer.

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