Ontario government directs school boards to develop policies for students' service animals

Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced Monday morning that the provincial government is directing schools to improve students’ access to service animals in schools.

“I want to ensure that every child, irrespective of their needs, has the opportunity to achieve their highest potential,” Lecce said in a statement. “Every child has inherent human dignity — particularly those with special needs — and that is why this positive step forward, led by Sam Oosterhoff and Amy Fee, will help support the success of all kids in the classroom.”

READ MORE: Boy with autism not allowed to have service dog in class, Ontario Human Rights Tribunal says

Under the directive, school boards will need to create a policy by the new year on having a service animal in school when it would support a student’s learning needs.

Lecce admitted that the policy could include not having service dogs in schools at all.

“The hope is that they can create a service policy that allows animals in the classroom,” he said in the announcement at JW Gerth Public School in Kitchener. “There’s other considerations, including the other children in the class.”

Lecce made the announcement alongside Fee, the MPP for Kitchener South—Hespeler. She and her husband Craig Fee have been proponents of having service animals in classrooms for years.

In 2017, the Ontario’s human rights tribunal ruled that the Fees’ son with autism, Kenner, who was nine years old at the time, was not allowed to bring his service dog to class.

READ MORE: Ontario boy with autism can’t bring service dog into class, family goes to human rights tribunal

Lecce made note of Fee’s advocacy in his remarks.

“I think the fact that she championed this as a trustee, as a parent, worked with the ministry and brought forth this change is a realization that active hard work in your community is a positive proof point that government is listening,” Lecce said.

 

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