In the recent past, Scooter Givens’ service dog, Madison, has been forbidden at Scooter’s school in Hillsboro, Oregon. Scooter is 10 years old, diagnosed with autism and relies on Madison to intervene in violent meltdowns. Madison does this by either sitting down and refusing to move thus taking away Scooter’s momentum, placing a paw on him to calm him, or laying on him which instantly alleviates the meltdown, allowing Scooter to get back on track. The school district has been refusing Scooter Givens’ service dog for two years (full story here).
More recently, in Florida, Collier County School District has been refusing 6 year old JC Bowen’s service dog, Pepsi (full story here). JC has been experiencing seizures for most of his life and was diagnosed with autism at age 2. Pepsi is able to help JC by sensing a seizure onset, allowing the boy to fall on him instead of the floor and then gently laying on him until he is calm.
“He responds to seizures. He responds specifically to JC's seizures," said JC's mother Elizabeth Lasanta, who is now in a legal battle with the school district.
Tuesday, Ms. Lasanta testified that Pepsi was allowed in school to walk JC to class last year, while this year she was told the dog wasn't allowed on the property. "In a sense, what the school has said to me is, 'Well, we don't need your tool. We have our own,'" said Lasanta.
According to his mother, not only does Pepsi help with JC’s epilepsy, but he also has allowed JC to gain more independence than he would without the service dog. While the judge’s decision is more than two months away, Ms. Lasanta says that she will not take ‘no’ for an answer and will continue to fight for the help that Pepsi brings her son both in school and out.
The school district states that they have people to help with JC’s needs.
The Americans with Disabilities Act defines a service dog as an animal that is trained to assist an individual with a disability. Service dogs help with functions or tasks that the individual is unable to perform for himself. They are not only used to assist the blind, but also alert people to loud or sudden noises, help with wheelchairs, indicate and help with seizure onset, and even help with behavioral impulse controls. If a dog meets this definition, it is considered a service animal under the ADA regardless of license or certification.