Service dogs welcome in Mission schools?

Service dogs welcome in Mission schools?

Board ponders policy to allow guide dogs in schools.

  • Nov. 6, 2015 6:00 a.m.

Mission board of education is considering a draft policy to allow guide dogs and service dogs in schools.

The policy draft was presented to trustees at the Oct. 20 board meeting. It will be circulated to parent and employee groups for feedback before coming back to the board.

Guide and service dogs are specially trained to assist students who have physical or development disabilities. The policy draft states they will be allowed in classrooms, in schools, on school property and on school district buses, when the terms and conditions contained in a supporting administrative procedure are met.

“These specifically trained dogs will be allowed when they afford students an equal opportunity to access services, programs and/or activities,” the policy draft states.

A guide dog or service dog is specifically trained to undertake more than one task to mitigate a student’s disabilities, and has obtained its certification under the Guide Dog and Service Dog Act and trained at an accredited Assistance Dogs International (ADI), International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) or a Ministry of Justice approved school of training.

Specifically outlined in the policy draft are autism support dogs, guide dogs for blind or visually impaired people, hearing dogs which alert individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to specific sounds, seizure-response dogs trained to provide emergency response for individuals with epilepsy and service dogs trained to assist individuals who utilize a wheelchair.

A separate policy on medical therapy dogs is also under consideration. These dogs are social interactive dogs trained to work for a handler to provide service and comfort to other people, such as in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, libraries, rehabilitation units; for children with learning disabilities or difficulty with literacy; or to support people in stressful situations.

The policy draft states they would only be permitted on school property when approved under the policy when it has been determined that the medical therapy dog helps the student to have equal access to the services, programs and/or activities offered by the district.