Boy with cerebral palsy denied service dog at school
SUNRISE, Fla. (WSVN) -- The family of a 5-year-old boy with cerebral palsy is fighting with the school board to allow him to bring his service dog to class. The school says the family needs to pay for additional insurance, but their lawyer calls that a violation of the law.
Five-year-old Anthony has a service dog, Stevie, that alerts when he is having a seizure. "Because sometimes he has different seizures that people don't recognize that Anthony has," said his mother Monica Alboniga, "because, all the time, the seizures are not visual seizures."
The dog spent 36 weeks in training and was recommended by Anthony's neurologists.
His mother says the dog never leaves his side. "He goes to the hospital and stays when Anthony stays in the hospital. He stays with him, he never goes out. He never says goodbye to Anthony," said Alboniga.
The School Board told the mother she would need additional insurance for her son's service dog. However, the family's lawyer noted, that is a clear violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Anthony was set to begin kindergarten at Nob Hill Elementary in Sunrise this Monday. Stevie was set to be there too, until the family received a letter from the Broward County School Board requiring additional insurance.
The letter stated the family needed "a certificate of current liability insurance covering the service animal and identifying the district as an additional insured, as required by the district."
However, the family cannot afford the additional insurance, and their lawyer maintains, requiring it violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. "It is illegal because a governmental facility cannot ask a service handler user for additional documentation in order to use the facility," said Attorney Matthew Dietz.
The lawyer is promising to take the school board to court to make sure Anthony and Stevie can go to school Monday.
All Anthony's mom wants is an education for her son. "I am very, very upset because I don't want him to go to school Monday without the dog. I am very scared for Monday because he needs to go to school," said Alboniga.
The school board released the following statement Friday afternoon: "The student must be under the control of a handler who is not a school board employee. If the handler is not the student, the handler must meet the requirements of the Jessica Lunsford Act (level II background screening)."
The attorney said that too was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and they must make reasonable compromises for people with disabilities.
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