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Deal Reached In Service Dog, Teacher Allergy Dispute


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The parents of a first-grader with autism have reached an agreement with an Ohio school district on how to accommodate both the girl’s service dog and a special-education teacher with a severe allergy to dog dander.

Six-year-old Shyanna Gretz will not go to school in the Athens, Ohio district as planned. Rather, she will attend first grade at the Beacon School, a school in Athens for students with special needs that she attended the previous three years.

Shyanna would enroll in the Athens district next school year.

The plan will provide more time for Shyanna and her trained black Labrador retriever service dog, Spring, to work together at the Beacon School before the two are placed in a classroom in the Athens district, Shyanna’s mother, Charla Gretz, said.

The Beacon School is operated by the Athens County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

Athens Superintendent Carl D. Martin said the agreement, reached last week, worked for all.

“I am happy to work with the parents,” he said.

Gretz was unhappy when she was told on the first day of class that Shyanna could not attend Morrison-Gordon Elementary School because her first-grade teacher was allergic to dogs. Instead, Shyanna was to go to East Elementary.

Gretz said the change would be too disruptive, and would mean a longer bus ride for Shyanna.

Gretz said, however, that delaying Shyanna’s enrollment in the Athens district by one year will give her and school officials proper time to plan for Shyanna to attend either elementary school.

There is a legal obligation to accommodate students using service dogs as well as students or teachers in the classroom who are allergic, said Sara Clark, an attorney with the Ohio School Boards Association. The recommended solution is separate classrooms, she said.

The Athens district, which has about 2,800 students, is about 75 miles southeast of Columbus, Ohio.

© 2013 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)
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Comments (4 Responses)

  1. Kathy says:

    How refreshing and encouraging to see people working together. How fortunate is this student who’s Mom and school system cooperate to make the best of the situation.

  2. mariecamp says:

    I am happy it all worked out and I hope all goes well andget what they need.

  3. Kaylar4 says:

    I’m shocked that this is looked upon as a “solution.” The ADA states that an allergy to dogs is NO excuse for a Service Dog not being allowed in a room. The child could have been transferred to another first grade teacher’s class room at the chosen school rather than being forced to attend another school. Or better yet — the allergic teacher could have been transferred somewhere away from the dog. To separate children with special needs from other students smacks of “separate but equal” which means segregated and less. And to segregate a child because of a Service Dog is unforgivable! It sends the message that the ADA is meaningless! The child’s needs should ALWAYS come first!

  4. Kathy says:

    I suppose that if only the “letter of the law” and not the overall effect for the student is important, then we should make the teacher transfer. As in all personal relationships caring and consideration for all involved can go a long way towards making the world a better place, especially for a child who will need the caring and consideration of the school where she will eventually go. I applaud the wise mother who is making her child’s world better.

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