Administrative Procedure 256

USE OF SERVICE DOGS

Background

Westwind School Division is committed to accommodating students with special needs.

A service/guide dog helps the handler perform specific tasks related to a student’s specific disability.  Use specially trained service/guide dogs is one strategy used to accommodate students with disabilities.

As a result, the use of a service/guide dog by a Westwind School Division student with a disability will be allowed when such use is necessary as a reasonable accommodation for the student for educational purposes.

Service/Guide Dogs

Service/guide dogs must be certified and registered in Alberta. The Service Dog Act website (through Alberta Human Services - Service Alberta) outlines the specific required information.

A service/guide dog and handler must meet all of the requirements set in the Alberta Service Dogs Act / Alberta's Blind Persons’ Rights Act to be considered to attend a facility of Westwind School Division and any Westwind School Division sponsored event.

Service/guide dogs working on Westwind School Division property will have a distinctive harness/saddlebag or vest and must always be on a leash and under control at all times Some technical skills for a service dog can be, but not limited to: operating light switches, opening and closing doors and drawers, retrieving items from floor, pulling wheelchairs, etc.  A certified and registered service/guide dog is a working dog and there are strict guidelines for access, handling and interaction with these dogs.

It should be noted that not all individuals are successful with the training and so although the school is to be alerted, the actual process does not formally begin until the candidate has graduated from the appropriate program.

Parents/Guardians (“Applicant”) will approach the Principal of the School regarding the needs of their child and the potential use of a service dog.

Definitions

A service dog has the qualifications prescribed by Alberta's Service Dogs Act for service purposes for a person with a disability (disabilities are defined in Alberta's Human Rights Act) if the person provides a letter from a qualified medical professional confirming that the person requires the dog for reasons relating to the disability.

A guide dog has the qualifications prescribed by Alberta's Blind Persons’ Rights Act for a person who is blind who requires an accommodation to be accompanied by the guide dog

A handler refers to the person for whom the service/guide dog is provided. A handler is not the student's parents.

A parent is as defined by Alberta’s School Act.

Procedure

  1. Parents or guardians (“Applicant”) wishing to use a service/guide dog to support their child’s disability at school must:
    1. Provide a written request to the school principal for a service dog/guide dog to assist the student outlining the descriptions of the service/guide dog’s intended activities, and the duration of the support. The written request for service/guide dog must be completed along with all supporting documentation;
    2. Complete the Request for a Certified Service Dog Form and attach it to the aforementioned letter;
    3. Provide a letter from a physician confirming the student requires the service dog/guide dog for reasons relating to the disability or the person who has reached the age 18 years provides the school principal with the identification referred to in section 6(2) of the Blind Persons’ Rights Act and, directly related to the learning needs of the student;
    4. Provide a copy of the Service Dog Team Identification Card issued by the Government of Alberta. All financial costs to obtain this card are the sole responsibility of the family;
    5. Provide up-to-date proof of vaccinations, licensing, insurance and ensure the dog is in good health. This must be done annually if the service/guide dog is accepted into the school to ensure continued eligibility. Parents are required to provide proof that their Home Insurance policy states that coverage is extended to include the actions of the dog, and must be a minimum of two million dollars general liability coverage;
    6. Complete the Management Plan for the Care of the Service Dog Form, that provides for the personal care and physical needs of the service dog/guide dog. This includes the need for “bio-breaks”, disposal of waste, provision of food, water, and a kennel;
    7. Work with the school principal to schedule training for the student’s school team by the service dog organization in order to educate the student body in the school about the role of the service dog and the rules of conduct concerning the dog (once the accommodation has been confirmed). This process will be ongoing as staff changes, grade changes, and other circumstances warrant additional training;
    8. Provide the school with signage (generally provided by the service dog organization) alerting visitors and emergency service providers to the service dog’s presence;
    9. Pay for any financial implications regarding the training, use and care of the service dog.
       
  2. When a school principal receives a written request for permission to have a service dog/guide dog assist the student to school, the school principal may authorize such a request, upon consultation with the Superintendent or designate. However, first the principal will:
    1. Consult with the Superintendent, or designate
    2. Review the documentation;
    3. Gather all relevant information as required
    4. Consider the rights of other students and employees (i.e. severe allergies to dogs, phobia or anxiety to dogs, etc.)
    5. Arrange a case conference(s) involving parents, teacher(s), educational assistants (where applicable), a representative of the service dog organization, and appropriate Student Services personnel to discuss the following:
      1. notification and involvement of classroom staff;
      2. review the purpose and function of the service/guide dog in relation to successful learning and/or safety for the student;
      3. clarify all responsibilities of the family, school, and school division;  
      4. transportation of the student and service/guide dog;
      5. how the student (handler) will handle the service/guide dog both inside and outside the school, and what arrangements have been made with regard to alternate handlers when necessary, other concerns including, but not limited to: interference with delivery of an educational program, possible changes to in-class routines and procedures, increased demands on staff, other children who are allergic to dogs, recognition of children with fear of dogs, cultural sensitivities to groups that will not share space with an animal;
      6. development of a comprehensive transition plan for the introduction of the dog which may involve the use of social stories, visits by the dog to the school and classroom, etc.
    6. Make decisions and document the decisions;
    7. Communicate the agreement to accommodate the student with a service/guide dog  in writing to the parent/guardian (after having consulted with the parents/guardian);
    8. Send a specific letter home to the parents of students who will be in any of the classes or classrooms where the dog will possibly be present in case of allergies, anxieties or other concerns ;
    9. Inform school staff, school council representatives and parents in a letter of the potential arrival of a service dog to the school and indicate the specific classes/areas where the service/guide dog will be present including the area reserved for animal waste;
    10. Work with appropriate personnel to revise emergency and safety procedures, as required, to include the service dog;
    11. Ensure that appropriate signage identifying the presence of a service/guide dog is posted at the school;
    12. Upon completion of the above, the principal will forward all relevant information to the Superintendent, or designate
       
  3. The agreement to accommodate the student with a service/guide dog will be reviewed annually. The accommodation plan may be modified as required following the same process set out in this AP.
     
  4. The Applicant must submit all the required documentation annually.
     
  5. An agreement to accommodate a service/guide dog may be terminated by Westwind School Division if the service/guide dog does not have up to date proper accreditation documents (as decided by Westwind School Division) or licensing. 

Additional Considerations/Requirements

  1. An applicant requesting a service/guide dog must communicate regularly with the school principal throughout the entire application and accommodation process.
  2. An applicant requesting a service/guide dog must, in consultation, with the school principal, arrange for the personal care and physical needs of the service/guide dog when the dog is present;
  3. The assistance of a service/guide dog does not apply if the individual is not in control of the behaviour of the service/guide dog;
  4. If the student moves to a different school, the written request for a service/guide dog must be resubmitted and initiated in advance, at the new school with the school principal;
  5. A service/guide dog may be excluded from access to specific areas where required by other laws (i.e. food preparation areas)
  6. Volunteers or guests requiring service/guide dogs must also meet Westwind School Division’s security clearance requirements.

Communication

  1. Prior to the service dog/guide dog accompanying a student, an accommodation plan will be developed, in consultation with the parent/guardian or adult individual requiring the service dog/guide dog, that identifies:
    1. the responsibilities for the personal care and physical needs of the service dog/guide dog (removal and disposal of animal waste, body breaks, feeding etc.);
    2. school considerations such as classroom seating, timetables, etc.;
    3. a plan to introduce the service dog/guide dog into the Westwind School Division setting;
    4. expectations and roles of Westwind School Division employees; and
    5. guidelines for the conduct of employees, students and public around the service dog/guide dog.
       
  2. If a service dog/guide dog will be present at a school or work site, the Principal or direct supervisor must:
    1. inform parents and/or employees of the specific classes/areas where the service dog/guide dog will be present, including area reserved for animal waste;
    2. inform all employees and school council of the presence of the service dog;
    3. ensure that a sign identifying the presence of a service dog/guide dog is posted at the school/work site entry.
       
  3. Parents or guardians of students eligible for transportation services must contact the transportation coordinator to ensure all bus policies are followed when transporting the student and dog to and from school on the school bus. If bus loading is necessary, the parent/guardian will be responsible with the service/guide dog in establishing routine and procedures to ensure safety for all stakeholders on the bus.
     
  4. A decision on the admittance of the service/guide dog into the learning environment will be made by principal after consulting with the Superintendent, or designate, based upon the review of submitted documentation pertaining to the
    1. student’s educational needs;
    2. fulfillment of family responsibilities, and
    3. fulfillment of school and District responsibilities to all stakeholders, including liability.
       
  5. At the end of each school year, the student’s learning team will review the student’s program needs related to the service/guide dog. This includes the school’s input with regard to monitoring the service/guide dog’s capacity to provide the target service. Decisions regarding the appropriate use of the service dog, program planning, and training will be considered. If the service/guide dog is deemed essential, comprehensive transition planning for future teachers, staff, students, transportation providers and the wider community will occur.
     
  6. On occasion, circumstances of possible conflicting rights may occur (refer to III.2.4 above.) Employees, students or parents/guardians of students with medical issues that are impacted by animals (such as respiratory diseases) should contact the school principal if they have a concern about exposure to a service/guide dog. That individual will be asked to provide medical documentation that identifies the disability and the need for accommodation. The school principal will facilitate a process to resolve the conflict that considers the conflicting needs/accommodation of all persons involved.
     
  7. Any student or parent/guardian of a student with a service/guide dog who is aggrieved by the school principal’s decision to remove, limit or exclude a service dog may appeal that decision to the Superintendent of Schools. The appeal must be in writing and must provide detailed information regarding the basis of the appeal.
     
  8. A copy of all service/guide dog request documentation will be placed in the cumulative file of the student requiring the service dog.

Appendix

Administrative Procedure 256 Appendix: Service Dogs Principal Checklist

Forms

Management Plan for the Care of the Service Dog Form

Request for a Certified Service Dog Form

Reference:

Section 3,11,31,32,33,52,53,196,197,204,222,225 Education Act

Alberta Human Rights Act

Alberta Service Dogs Act

Blind Persons’ Rights Act

Alberta Service Dogs Qualifications Regulation 197/2008

 

Approved: March 11, 2019