The Gates-Chili Central School District has announced it will contest a ruling by the US Department of Justice (DOJ), and New York State Education Department (NYSED), which found the district to be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), by not allowing eight-year-old Devyn Pereira to bring her service dog to school.
NYSED had ordered the district to reverse its policy, and pay $25,000 in compensatory damages to the Pereira family, or risk facing a lawsuit if it failed to do so.
“The Gates Chili Central School District received a Letter of Findings from the United States Department of Justice and a document from the New York State Education Department concerning service dog issues,” the district said in a statement. “Both appear to adopt interpretations of the rules concerning service dogs that are at odds with the language and application of the existing officially published ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) service dog rules. As a result, the district has concluded that it is not only appropriate, but necessary to ask DOJ for clarity, reconsideration and perhaps substantially modify or revoke its Letter of Findings and for the district to also initiate the review procedure specified in the Regulations of the New York Commissioner of Education to seek clarification and reconsideration of the position employed in the State Education Department document.”
The Gates-Chili school district had prohibited any district staff members or aides from assisting with Devyn’s service dog in 2012, and instead required the Pereira family hire a handler for the animal, refusing to cover the cost of the aide.
Consequently, the Pereiras filed a complaint with the DOJ, stating the district had been in violation of the ADA, by not providing Devyn with the support she needed in order to use her service animal at school. In addition, the Pereiras said the dog required minimal handling from school aides, and was trained to last the entire day without needing to be walked, eat or to relieve herself.
During the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division investigation, and until the office rendered its decision two weeks ago, the Pereiras paid $25,000 for the additional handler to assist with Devyn’s dog at school.
Following the culmination of the investigation, both the DOJ and NYSED found the district to be in violation of federal law, and ordered the district to allow its staff members to help with the animal, as well as to reimburse the Pereiras for their expenses.
Visit http://www.gateschili.org/news.cfm?story=1896 to view the district’s full statement regarding the findings.