What is an emotional support animal?
Emotional support animals provide companionship and sometimes help with mood disorders and certain phobias. They do not have special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities and are therefore not covered by the ADA as service animals.
Districts will have their own policies regarding emotional support animals in schools.
Tips for K-12 schools
1. Create a plan.
Meet with the student, the student’s family and the dog’s trainer before bringing the service dog to school. The plan should address how to educate school staff and other students about the service dog.
2. Discuss concerns ahead of time.
Neither fear of dogs nor allergies warrants removing a service dog. The plan should accommodate students who are dealing with those issues.
3. Take safety precautions.
A service dog should have a harness, leash or tether. If that’s impractical, the student or trainer should be able to control the dog by voice commands or other signals.
“Taking these initial steps shows your willingness to abide by the ADA and provide a quality education for all the students in the classroom,” Rickert says. “It also reduces the likelihood of legal hassles down the road.”
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