A 7-year old Massachusetts boy has been unable to attend the first grade since his school district has refused to make accommodations for the boy’s service dog.
Austin has a brain malformation that causes him to have seizures. His service dog, a Golden Retriever named Paris, is trained to alert others to Austin’s seizures before they occur by detecting subtle chemical changes in the boy’s body. In addition, Paris serves as a comfort animal, trained to calm Austin, whose condition also affects his speech, causing him to often become frustrated when he speaks.
Because seizures can happen at any time, Paris needs to be by Austin’s side 24-hours a day, even while he’s in school.
However, because Austin is only 7-years old, he cannot physically be responsible for Paris and needs help from an adult with walking the dog, taking her outside, picking up after her, as well as keeping an eye on her throughout the day.
“For whatever reason, the school district will not allow any school staff to be the dog handler,” Austin’s mother, Ericha Flateau told Fox & Friends.
Austin’s family cannot afford to hire a dedicated dog handler to stay with Austin and Paris during school each day, and Ericha says she can’t afford not to go to work herself.
Flateau is hoping that staff from the Davis Thayer Elementary School in Franklin, Massachusetts can work with her to make suitable arrangements. She isn’t expecting the school to place a dedicated dog handler with her son, but just wants staff already in place to help Austin with Paris when and if needed.
The Franklin School District told Fox & Friends in a statement that it “fully provides and promotes access for all individuals with disabilities, including those that require that assistance of service animals.”
Flateau says that if arrangements cannot be made to accommodate her son, they’ll be forced to move to another school district that will help.