Q&A: Service Animals at School

Utah Professional Practices Advisory Commission Q & AQ: I am a mother of a student who trains seeing eye dogs. My daughter would like to take her dog-in-training to school with her as part of his training. May she take the dog? –Parent

A: Utah law allows a person training a “service animal” to be accompanied by the animal “. . .in the use of highways, streets, sidewalks, walkways, public buildings, public facilities, and other public areas as a person who is not a person with a disability.”

Is a school a public building? Despite the state law, the official commentary from Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) provides: a service animal may be excluded from a school building, school function, or school sponsored activity if permitting the service animal would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program, or activity (Official Commentary to ADA Regulations, 28 CFR Part 35).

It seems that the answer to your question is that if a school finds that an animal in training would alter the nature of a school activity or class (e.g. a student is allergic to animals, a student is fearful of dogs), the animal could be excluded. For more information about service animals in schools, see the archived UPPAC October 2011 Newsletter.

What is UPPAC? UPPAC is a committee of nine educators and two community members charged with maintaining and promoting a high standard of professional conduct and ethics among Utah teachers. It is advisory to the Utah State Board of Education in making recommendations regarding educator licensing and may take appropriate disciplinary action regarding educator misconduct.

For more information about UPPAC or to submit your questions to the UPPAC Q&A, contact William Spiegel at william.spiegel@schools.utah.gov or by phone at 801-538-7500.

Read the UPPAC newsletter, “Utah School Law Update,” for more Utah public education legal news and information.

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