[nfbwatlk] Clover Park schools: Don't teach dogs here, Tacoma News Tribune, November 3 2009

Robert Sellers robertsellers500 at comcast.net
Fri Nov 6 04:24:07 UTC 2009

How does a brain that rationalizes that a dog in a classroom affects the
quality of the air become a District Superintendent? What would she say
about a dog guide in her school?  I know some humans that can affect the
quality of the air. Maybe they should be 'left at home' or 'out of society'.

Bob Sellers

-----Original Message-----
From: nfbwatlk-bounces at nfbnet.org [mailto:nfbwatlk-bounces at nfbnet.org] On
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Sent: Wednesday, November 04, 2009 1:21 PM
To: 'nfbwatlk at nfbnet.org'
Subject: [nfbwatlk] Clover Park schools: Don't teach dogs here, Tacoma News
Tribune, November 3 2009


Clover Park schools: Don't teach dogs here
Clover Park: Superintendent says it's a liability when staff members bring
service dogs in training
DEBBIE CAFAZZO; The News Tribune
Published: 11/03/09

Angie Jennen Photo:  Kirsch often rests at the feet of Angie Jennen under
her desk at work. This is where the dogs stay typically stay when others are
in my office.

To school psychologist Angie Jennen, her black Labrador retriever Mick is a
four-legged teacher, helper and built-in reward system for the kids she
works with every day.

But to Clover Park School District Superintendent Debbie LeBeau, Mick is a
potential liability, a possible distraction and a threat to air quality.
That's why she has asked Jennen to leave Mick at home.

Mick is training to join the ranks of service dogs, which assist disabled
people in performing everyday tasks. Exposing the dogs to children and a
work environment is an important part of their training, Jennen explained.

"Just having the dog there has impacted kids in ways I never would have
imagined," she said. "Having the dog there has been a tool for doing my

Counters LeBeau: "I'm not disputing the value of it. I'm just saying this is
a liability. I do think there is educational value. I just don't know that
it needs to be every day, all day long."

Jennen, who splits her time between Woodbrook and Mann middle schools in
Lakewood, began training service dogs as a volunteer and taking them to
school as part of their training in 2004.

Mick, her fifth dog, came to her from a California-based group called Canine
Companions for Independence. She became interested in raising service dogs
after her son, a quadriplegic, obtained one.

"He was on a waiting list for seven years to get a service dog," Jennen
said. "They were talking about how they needed puppy raisers."

Each dog stays with her for about 18 months before being matched with a
disabled person.

Back in 2004, Jennen said, district officials - including
then-Superintendent Al Cohen - seemed fine with the idea. It wasn't until
this school year that the issue arose again among Clover Park

LeBeau said a student with a disability at Lakes High School needed a
service dog. In discussing the student's need and reviewing district
procedures governing animals in schools, "it heightened our awareness,"
LeBeau said.

Although the district was eager to accommodate the student's need, LeBeau
said, it took a different view of the working dogs employed by staff members
without disabilities.

LeBeau sent letters to Jennen and to Janene Loudon, a school district
occupational therapist with a 7-year-old Labrador-golden retriever that has
been coming to school with her for five years. Loudon's dog, named Calais,
is fully trained as a therapy dog.

LeBeau told both women this year that they should stop bringing their dogs
to school.

"Your trained dog is a service animal, but it is not clear who is the
recipient of the service," LeBeau wrote Oct. 23 to Loudon, whose work can
take her to as many as nine different schools. "We do not have a sanctioned
therapy dog program in Clover Park School District and there is no paperwork
on file to indicate you require a service dog in order to function at work."

LeBeau told Jennen in a letter dated Oct. 23 that animals in school are a
liability concern.

"Although you have insurance for your animal, anything that occurs on
district property is our responsibility, especially when we authorize the
request," LeBeau wrote.

Both Jennen and Loudon were heartbroken.

They met with LeBeau and spoke to the Clover Park School Board in an effort
to get the ruling reversed. But board president Marty Schafer said in a
letter that the decision was up to the superintendent.

Both Loudon and Jennen thought they had followed district procedures for
bringing animals to schools - filling out paperwork and consulting with
their building principals. But LeBeau told both women that written records
are incomplete or missing.

Procedures call for parents of students in schools where animals are present
to be notified each year in writing. Jennen said parents have been informed
by her principals, although LeBeau said that some of the notifications have
been through automated phone messages and not in writing.

"The reasons for parents to be notified has to do with children's
allergies," LeBeau said. "We have students in the district who have a fear
of animals. We have fragile children."

Both Jennen and Loudon say they have never received a complaint from a
parent about their dogs.

LeBeau told both Jennen and Loudon that she had consulted with the Puget
Sound Educational Service District, which advises area school districts. She
said the ESD conducted a survey and districts that responded do not allow
training animals full-time in their schools.

Policies on animals in schools vary from district to district, according to
Elizabeth Jakab, a consultant for the ESD's workers compensation trust who
shared information with LeBeau.

"There is not a consensus," Jakab said. Some districts have no policies,
while others restrict animals to short visits, she said.

The Lake Washington School District in King County leaves the decision up to
each principal. The Puyallup School District requires principal approval for
animals used as part of an instructional program. It simply says that health
issues, including allergies among students and staff, and shots for the
animal, "must be addressed" before an animal is allowed at school.

Jakab views animals at school as a potential health problem and a threat to
indoor air quality. With national statistics showing that an average
classroom has at least three children with asthma, she said, animals can
create threats even to children who don't come into direct contact with
them. She said there is more awareness now about those kinds of threats than
in years past.

In Lakewood, both Jennen and Loudon are hoping they can convince the
district administration that Mick and Calais bring more to school than
health threats.

For now, they are trying to use the experience to teach students a new
lesson: to follow orders, just like kids have to do when their mom or dad
tells them to do something.

LeBeau said she believes the discussion is closed.

"But I am always open to listening to people," she added.

Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635

debbie.cafazzo at thenewstribune.com

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