Alyssa Johnson Massachusetts 0

School Battles Use of Service Dog

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My name is Alyssa Johnson and I am currently a Junior at Bancroft School in Worcester, Massachusetts. I have battled with mental illness most of my life, but I've finally found comfort and serenity within my service dog, Morgaine. Without her, going into public settings and having to interact with people would be near to impossible. In public settings without Morgaine, I can hardly ask an employee for help, but with Morgaine I am able to have full conversations with people in stores and feel confident. Ever since I got Morgaine, I've expanded as an individual and my mental health has gotten better.

"Schools are considered public spaces" (2015 CANINES FOR DISABLED KIDS, INC. 255 Park Ave, Suite 601 Worcester, MA 01609.). My school is referred as an "Independent Day School". Even though there are laws set in place that say I- as a handler- must have access to my dog at all times needed, my school has put up a wall and has become very difficult to work with. "Under the ADA, State and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organisations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go" (U.S. Department of Justice. Civil Rights Division. Disability Rights Section. Under: Where Service Animals Are Allowed.) My school had originally made a set of "Guidelines" for my to follow after several meetings that were held without my presence. Under theses guidelines, I would not be able to bring my dog out of a small room located behind the schools Faculty Lounge. In addition, I would not be allowed to bring any friends or teachers into the room to accompany me in a time or distress. The guidelines end with the following statement, "At any time that the above stated conditions are not met, the school reserves the right to modify or annul this agreement."

Having a service dog has helped me in many different ways. Service dogs can sense a mood change in their handler before the handler does. When athe dog notices this, he/she will put their head on their handlers lap to inform them that there is going to be an episode- such as an anxiety attack. My school is expecting me to leave class to go to my dog when I am having an episode, but they have failed to see that if I have my dog with me I will not have to leave class. Even in a class setting, my dog would be able to pick up on mood changes and alert me of them, thus I would be able to stay mindful of my mood, and prepare for a mood change. Secondly, if I had to leave the classroom after I noticed an episode was happening, the chances of stopping it completely would be near to nothing compared to the changes of stopping an episode when Morgaine can alert me before it occurs.

My school has multiple buildings on campus; I have classes in different buildings. If I needed to connect with Morgaine while I was in a building far away from where she is meant to be kept, the chances of me making it to her before I was in a full-blown attack are slim.

Also in the guidelines, it states that I am not allowed to have Morgaine on campus after 2:45pm- the school regular school day ends at 3:30pm (excluding Fridays). This means that someone in my family has to leave work and come to my school and pick up Morgaine because I participate in after schools sports.

In 42 U.S. Code § 12101- Findings and purpose, published from Cornell University Law School states that "society has tended to isolate and segregate individuals with [physical or mental] disabilities,".

"People with disabilities who use service animals cannot be isolated from other patrons,". (U.S. Department of Justice. Civil Rights Division. Disability Rights Section. Under: Inquiries, Exclusions, Charges, and Other Specific Rules Related to Service Animals.) My school is going directly against this section in the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).

There are children in my schools who may have fears or allergies to dogs, but under the ADA "Allergies and fears of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals." (U.S. Department of Justice. Civil Rights Division. Disability Rights Section. Under: Inquiries, Exclusions, Charges, and Other Specific Rules Related to Service Animals.) My school is going directly against this section in the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). I am aware that many people have allergies to dogs, and through research have found a dander spray that will lessen the amount of dog dander that becomes airborne. As for the students who are severely allergic to dogs, I made it clear to my school that I would be willing not to bring my service dog into a class in which a student with a sever allergy was present. I made that clear for students who have fears, also.

I would like to be able to have my dog with me during classes. Being aware of other students, if I had a class with someone who had an allergy or fear, I would work with the students to provide a safe space for everyone. I would be willing to not bring my dog to lunch and school assembly. Lastly, I would be willing to keep my dog away from the Middle and Lower schools.

I currently am not allowed to bring my dog onto campus.

I am asking people I know, and the general public to sign this petition so that I will be able to bring my service dog to school with me and be able to be with her. I'm asking for your help bring attention to this major problem and help me fix it. The founder of my school has a quote that is well known at Bancroft, "Where the people possess no authority, their rights obtain no respect" (George Bancroft). Bancroft is currently breaking Federal Laws that project myself as a handler and my service dog, Morgaine. Not only is this a crime, but is outright ridiculous that a school is refusing me to be in class with my dog.

Please help me by signing this petition and sharing it with friends, family, co-workers, anyone.


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