Illinois Attorney General Files in Support of Autism Service Dog
The Post-Dispatch reports:
Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed papers with the 5th District Appellate Court in Mount Vernon announcing her office’s intention to file a brief in favor of Chris and Melissa Kalbfleisch. Madigan was granted a temporary extension Monday to file them.
This is the case of the boy with autism who recently began attending a private school after his public district refused to admit his service dog.
I think the boy’s family has a good case, considering that Illinois law requires schools to accommodate service dogs. The district can continue to argue that the dog is just a pet. But, because the dog was ordered by a physician and is specially trained, and because autism is now widely recognized as a disability that requires comprehensive treatment, I doubt the district will win.
At the same time, I would be surprised if the district allows the boy to return to the traditional public school with his dog. I expect that the district will continue paying tuition at the private school if the case is decided in the boy’s favor, and it may be ordered to pay the full cost. But you can’t force a district to teach someone who needs extra, specialized services. There are other districts that pay to send students with autism to private schools — and they do this even for students who don’t have service dogs to complicate matters.
This story continues to serve as a reminder that traditional school districts can’t educate everyone. The idea of all students coming together in a common school simply doesn’t work in practice.