Bullying: A parents’ resource guide

From time to time, we here at the Kitsap Sun get calls from parents concerned about bullying at their children’s school. On Sunday, we’ll run the first of a two-part series on bullying in schools. Day one is focused on how parents can best advocate for their children when bullying happens. On Tuesday (our regular Education Spotlight day), we will follow up with a look at why middle schools are often a hot bed of conflict waiting to happen.

Meanwhile, here are the nuts and bolts of student rights, school responsibilities and what parents should know about helping their student deal with bullying at school.

This information comes from the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. OSPI does not have authority to enforce local rules except in cases involving sexual discrimination, special education disputes and complaints of misconduct against a school district employee.

Each school district is required by RCW 28A.300.285 to have a policy that prohibits the harassment, intimidation, or bullying of any student. Schools must share this policy with parents or guardians, students, volunteers, and school employees. Districts post policies and procedures on their website and in parent handbooks.

How do I report suspected bullying?
1. Contact your child’s school (or transportation department if the incident happens on the bus). Fill out an incident form, which should be available at the school or on the district’s website. The school is required to conduct an investigation.
2. Anyone — students, parents, staff — can report suspected bullying. Students may submit the report asking for confidentiality, meaning the staff will not disclose the name of the reporting student to the accused student. Anonymous reports also are accepted. Staff cannot issue disciplinary consequences for anonymous reports, but they may alert staff to an existing problem.
3. If the bullying act was particularly vicious and the bully seriously injured your child or caused significant harm to your child’s property, the bully may be guilty of malicious harassment. Contact the police if you suspect malicious harassment. In some cases, the schools will make a police report on your child’s behalf.
4. If you feel the school has not adequately addressed the issues, file a written complaint with the district’s compliance officer, who is an administrator appointed by OSPI to over see discipline. Next up the chain of command would be the superintendent.
5. If you still feel that district has not adequately addressed the issues, you may file a complaint with a school board member. Most school boards do not permit discussion of individual discipline cases during public meetings.
6. If you still feel that your concerns have not been addressed, you may contact your Educational Service District Superintendent. Kitsap County is served by Olympic Educational Service District 114, (360) 479-0993.
7. For further help and guidance, contact one of the agencies listed below.

Washington State Human Rights Commission
Addresses bullying based on race, color, creed, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, perceived sexual orientation, gender expression, sensory, mental, or physical disability). The Human Rights Commission has staff throughout the state who able to meet with you and investigate the bullying complaint.

Washington State Office of the Education Ombudsman
Helps with parent-school conflicts with regionally sited investigators: (866) 297-2597.

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights
Addresses complaints based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability and age and has a regional office in Seattle: (206) 607-1600.

The Safe Schools Coalition
Addresses homophobia and harassment in school based on real or perceived sexual orientation: (877) 723-3723.

Washington State Parent-Teacher Association (PTA)
Has regional offices, and the national PTA provides guidance on bullying.

Community Relations Service
An arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, provides conciliation services to help prevent and resolve racial and ethnic conflict. Contact Sandra Blair, Conciliation Specialist, Northwest Regional Office: (206) 220-6704.

Source: Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Safety Center, http://www.k12.wa.us/SafetyCenter/BullyingHarassment/FactSheet.aspx

More resources for parents
Committee for Children, parents guide to support children in reporting bullying
http://cfchildren.org/bullying-prevention/related-articles/role-play-how-to-report-bullying

Committee for Children, parents guide to cyberbullying
http://cfchildren.org/bullying-prevention/related-articles/safeguard-your-students-against-cyber-bullying

Stop Bullying, federal public service site
http://www.stopbullying.gov/

Source: Bremerton School District, http://www.bremertonschools.org

Chris Henry, Kitsap Sun education reporter

Another Kitsap crew runs in Boston

BostonCompactOn Monday 19 of our ambitious, dedicated and skilled friends will run the Boston Marathon. Bib No. 18775 is a friend of ours. Who you see here as Luz M. Rodriguez is someone my wife, Diana, and I know as Marcela.

We met Silverdale’s Marcela when she and Diana were teammates in a relay that runs essentially from the Canadian border in Blaine to somewhere on Whidbey Island. Those relays are a tough haul. Diana had to run two extra miles when she missed a turn. Marcela herself wasn’t sure she could tough out the last of three legs each runner agrees to run, but she did it, making it look like it was easy. Diana has since run the Portland Marathon and from what I can tell is not eager to run another one.

Marcela, on the other hand, set her sights on Boston some time ago. We’ve celebrated her progress. And since Boston is something you have to qualify for, we’ve been especially proud of her work. So has her home country of Chile. Marcela comes from the southern quarter of that country and on Friday was featured in her hometown paper. At the end of the story she’s telling anyone that if they want to, they should go after a goal like this one, repeating the Spanish version of the common English saying, “If I can do it, anyone can.”

The view from Chile of Silverdale's Luz Marcella Rodriguez.
The view from Chile of Silverdale’s Luz Marcela Rodriguez.

While I don’t agree that anyone can qualify for Boston, if it’s not a marathon that’s in your dreams, there is something. And in that sense, Marcela is right. If she can achieve this dream, you can achieve yours. I have a few things I dream of accomplishing, and finishing a marathon is one of them. Aside from the fact that it’s hard for anyone (Well, a few people make it look pretty easy.) to run 26.2 miles, for me to do it would prove that I had accomplished so much more. If you’ve met me, you know what I’m talking about. Any marathon would be my Boston.

So maybe that’s the question. What is your Boston?

Good look to all our Kitsap runners. Thanks for inspiring us to pursue our Bostons.

Note from Esteef: I tidied this thing up quite a bit since its initial publication.  I normally give these things at least another read or two before hitting the “publish” button, but it was late on Friday and I spent most of the week coughing, so I was tired and ready to go home. Had I read it at least one more time I might have noticed a few things that needed changing, including the fact that I misspelled Marcela’s name throughout. I also forgot to mention that of all the Spanish or Portuguese-speaking nations in the world, Chile is the best. It’s not even a close contest. Some of it is the dramatic variety in the nation’s landscape, going from the driest climate on Earth to a point where the next neighbor to the south is a penguin. It’s also got great beaches, mountains and enough earthquakes to satisfy even the thirstiest of thrill seekers. I hear the wine is quite good. The shellfish is excellent and plentiful , Chileans have perfected the art of dressing up a hot dog and the empenadas should be part of every death row inmate’s last meal as a testament to our compassion for even the most vile among us. The best parts of Chile are probably the Chileans, except for the one in charge when I lived down there. He was a jerk.

Anyway, all this to say that most American of explanations, “Mistakes were made.” 

 

Elected officials can have private social media accounts but …

On Wednesday, I interviewed Fred Chang, administrator of the Port Orchard Facebook group, about a face-to-face meet-and-greet of group members on Saturday at the Port Orchard Public Market.

The same day, a flap within the group unrelated to the meet-and-greet or the interview was stirring.

Bruce Beckman set off a lengthy thread by posting a comment in the main group about a spin-off that Fred started in December called Port Orchard Religious Rants and Raves group. Fred mentioned the group during our interview, saying the idea was to give group members a place to discuss religion. Early in the religious group’s existence, Fred turned active administration over to another member and didn’t pay much attention to the discussion thereafter, he said. What Fred hadn’t noticed was the snarky tone — my description — of the more recent posts, that some members objected to.

Bruce, in the main group post, wrote, “It’s unacceptable for someone in public office to have a bigoted Facebook group with the town’s name on it. Most people will agree that mocking someone for their religious beliefs is just as bigoted as mocking someone for skin color or sexual orientation.”

Bruce accused the group of censoring people of religious faith and called on Fred to, “explain his position publicly on this issue since he is a member of the Port Orchard City Council.”

Chang, in a separate post that showed a screen shot of Bruce’s comments, said he disagreed with Bruce’s characterization of the religious discussion group. Fred added that had he seen posts that appeared to be mocking, he would have removed them.

Chang on Friday told me he had a private message conversation with Kathryn Simpson, who was also unhappy with Fred about his involvement with the group. On Thursday, Chang took the group down. A separate group with the same name, administered by someone else, appeared shortly afterward.

I’m pursuing the issue here not to settle whether the group was mocking of people of faith but to address public records issues that Bruce alluded to in his post. Should a city resident who is also a city councilman maintain an active private profile on Facebook? Does the use of the term “Port Orchard” in the title of a group administered by someone who is a city councilman constitute a public record?

First, let’s note that other Port Orchard City Council members have Facebook pages. Like Chang’s account, the content is mostly about sunsets, pets and the like, nothing racy, very little city related. Cindy Lucarelli has made a couple of upbeat posts about city cleanup day and the like.

According to Pat Mason, legal consultant for the Municipal Resources Service Center, there is nothing that precludes elected officials having personal social media accounts or private devices, but as we learned from Hillary Clinton, issues arise when you conduct public business on a private account. Mason says there’s nothing that prohibits this, “Our concern would be, if they do, are those records being retained?” Because, as in the case on Bainbridge Island, people can make public records requests for those documents, and if the city or county or water district drags its feet in any way (as defined under public records laws) it runs the risk of a lawsuit. Bainbridge ended up settling a public records suit for $500,000 in late 2014.

In short, according to Mason, elected officials can conduct public business on private accounts, but they had better be able to quickly produce those records.

Chang occasionally will give information about the city on Facebook, such as the date of a city council meeting. When he does, he takes a screenshot and sends it to his city email to create a record. Chang, as far as I can tell, stayed out of a recent heated discussion about city zoning regulations and one business owner’s display of a large American flag. He said he purposely avoids posting in discussions where it might be construed that he was making a position statement on behalf of the city.

So back to the Port Orchard Religious Rants and Raves group, was it a good idea for Chang to start the group then turn administration over to someone else? Maybe not. But was it city business? No, said City Clerk Brandy Rinearson. At least not because of the name. “We can’t regulate what people call their Facebook groups,” Rinearson said. “I would say it’s not a public record unless the content is about city business posted by and elected official or (city) employee.”

And there’s another side to the coin. “He’s an elected official, but he has a right to his free speech,” Rinearson said. “Where there’s a grey line is if he makes a statement that has to do with city business.”

Mason concurs. “They don’t give up their free speech rights,” he said.

But the issue is far from cut and dried. The sheer volume of material to be sifted through and the possibility of deleted posts could raise questions about whether a search for public records has been satisfied.

The rules are being hashed out in the courts, as on Bainbridge and elsewhere.

“To me this is an evolving area,” said Mason. “This is not a settled area of the law in my mind.”

Some jurisdictions limit the use of private accounts for public business. Port Orchard this year implemented software that allows elected officials access to their city email on private devices. And the city has a policy saying social media sites of city departments are to be one-way only for giving out information not for engaging in public debate. But there is nothing in the city policy that speaks to elected officials’ private use of social media.

As it stands now there is some degree of conflict between privacy rights of public officials and public records requests, Mason said.

Should elected officials have personal social media accounts?

  • It's OK, as long as they archive any discussion that could be seen construed as public business. (47%, 61 Votes)
  • It's OK, as long as they never discuss public business on personal accounts. (42%, 55 Votes)
  • No. Public officials with personal accounts present too much of a risk to the jurisdiction. (11%, 14 Votes)

Total Voters: 130

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South Kitsap sisters are the Siskel and Ebert of children’s books

With a mom who’s a school librarian, how could Kai and Kiki Wilson not love books? Well, it’s not as if their mom Heather Wilson had to drag them kicking and screaming.

I interviewed the girls, 9 and 7, last week about their YouTube channel, Follow the Readers, where they review their literary picks and pans.

In our Features story Sunday, find out how the girls got their start … and their reading recommendations.

To find the Wilsons on YouTube, search Follow the Readers, and on Facebook, see https://www.facebook.com/followthereadersbookclub. Their blog is at http://followthereaders.com/.

While you’re waiting for the story, here are a couple of samples of their work:

New benches coming to Poulsbo waterfront

A map of where the new benches will be place. They are the blue rectangles.
A map of where the new benches will be place. They are the blue rectangles. Map courtesy of the city of Poulsbo.

There will be quite a few more spots to sit back, relax and enjoy the view at Poulsbo’s waterfront park next month.

The city is installing 10 new benches between the Austin-Kvelstad Pavilion and the parking lot. The metal benches will be similar to the blue benches at the park, although the new ones will be dark brown to match the pavilion, said Mary McCluskey, park director.

Workers plan to pour concrete Thursday, and all the benches will be done by the end of April.

Viking Fest, one of the city’s largest event, is in mid-May.

UW researchers say schools’ pot policies matter more since legalization

Suspending kids from school for using pot is not an effective deterrent, in fact it can lead to more — not less — use, according to a study by researchers at the University of Washington and in Australia.

Counseling and promotion of an abstinence message in schools were found to be much more effective, according to an article about the study that was published March 19 in the American Journal of Public Health.

The study, conducted in 2002 and 2003, compared drug policies at schools in Washington State and Victoria, Australia, to determine how they impacted student marijuana use.

The researchers were initially most interested in teens’ use of alcohol and cigarettes, according to a news release about the article from the University of Washington. But after Washington legalized recreational marijuana use for adults in 2012, researchers decided to reexamine the data to see how legalization might influence students in Washington versus their counterparts in Australia, where pot remains illegal, said Deborah Bach, a social science writer at the UW.

They found students attending schools with suspension policies for illicit drug use were 1.6 times more likely than their peers at schools without such policies to use marijuana in the next year. That was true for the whole student body, not just those who were suspended.

“That was surprising to us,” said co-author Richard Catalano, professor of social work and co-founder of the Social Development Research Group at the University of Washington’s School of Social Work. “It means that suspensions are certainly not having a deterrent effect. It’s just the opposite.”

This echoes reporting we did in the Kitsap Sun about student discipline in general, in which educators and child advocates from many corners said suspension and expulsion are ineffective at reversing undesirable behavior.

Conversely, in schools with policies of referring pot-using students to a school counselor, students were almost 50 percent less likely to use marijuana.

Washington and Victoria, Australia were chosen for the study since they are similar in size and demographics, but differ considerably in their approaches to drug use among students. Washington schools, at least at the time of the study, were more likely to suspend students, call police or require offenders to attend education or cessation programs, the researchers noted, while Victoria schools emphasize “a harm-reduction approach that favors counseling.”

Researchers surveyed more than 3,200 seventh- and ninth-graders in both 2002 and 2003 about their use of marijuana, alcohol and cigarettes and also about their schools’ drug policies and enforcement. Nearly 200 school administrators were also surveyed. In both survey years, pot use was higher among the Washington students. Almost 12 percent of Washington ninth-graders had used marijuana in the past month, compared with just over 9 percent of Victoria ninth-graders, for example.

Tracy Evans-Whipp, the study’s lead author, said although the research predated Washington’s legalization, the findings show what types of school policies are most effective in discouraging teens’ use of the drug.

The study also showed “a consistent link” between increased acccess to marijuana and higher rates of self-reported use by adolescents, Bach notes.

“To reduce marijuana use among all students, we need to ensure that schools are using drug policies that respond to policy violations by educating or counseling students, not just penalizing them,” Catalano said.

Others involved in the research are are Todd Herrenkohl at the UW, Stephanie Plenty at the Centre for Health Equity Studies in Sweden and John Toumbourou at Deakin University in Australia.

Chros Henry, Kitsap Sun education reporter

County offers Bucklin update website

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 10.50.42 AM

If you haven’t already heard that beginning July 1 Bucklin Hill Road is going to be closed for more than a year, I am posting this note on the off chance that you’ll find it out here. Though unlikely, it’s possible. If necessary, I’ll post it in an AOL chat room and more importantly on an Albertsons Haggen community bulletin board.

The more important news here, though, is the county has a website where you can get the latest on the project designed to deliver the bridge you see above. The county has set up a web domain BucklinHill.com, where you can see timelines, project history and a page dedicated to helping you plan your way around the closure.

Developer says assisted living facility will have small impact on parking, traffic

Site plans for Poulsbo Place II.
Site plans for Poulsbo Place II.

Questions and discussions centered around parking and traffic concerns during a neighborhood meeting last Wednesday evening about a proposed assisted living development in Poulsbo.

“It’s the project that will create the least amount of traffic and parking problems that you can put on the site,” Co-developer David Smith told about 30 people at the meeting.

The facility, known as Poulsbo Place II, would have underground parking to provide enough space for residents, guests and employees at the assisted living facility, he said.

There would be 40 parking stalls under the facility along Third Avenue, with another 52 stalls at the corner of Third Avenue and Iverson Street. There is the possibility of an expansion above the 52 parking stalls.

There also would be four handicapped parking spots by the main entrance of the building, although the area would be mainly for picking up and dropping off residents.

The north end of the development along Sunset Street would have three stories with retail on the ground level. A majority of the parking would be unground along the Third Avenue.

Although the Third Avenue buildings would have three-stories, including parking on the lower level, it would appear to be two-stories from Sunset Street, said Ian Andersen, a Rice Fergus Miller architect working on the project.

While residents had questions about traffic and parking, only one spoke out in favor of leaving the property undeveloped or developing a building that would have even less impact on traffic, such as a church, she said.

The property — 2.2 acres of grass and blackberry bushes with no trees — is assessed at $183,700.

Smith compared available parking and traffic of the proposed project to the existing Liberty Shores Senior Living in Poulsbo where his mother-in-law was.

Liberty Shores has 102 units, and Poulsbo Place II would have 100 units, fewer than a dozen of those being two-person units.

“It works great except on Christmas and Thanksgiving,” Smith said about Liberty Shores. “Other than that, I’ve always had parking.”

Most of the traffic at the proposed facility would be during a change shift for employees at the facility.

Drivers would enter underground parking near the curve on Sunset and Third Avenue, and exit on Iverson Street. Drivers can only enter and exit via right turns.

There will be an elevator, along with emergency stairs in the parking garage area.

Dumpster for the facility will be in the garage area and set out for a few hours for pickup on trash day.

The residents also would be “captive customers” that would help support nearby businesses and downtown Poulsbo just a couple blocks away, Smith said.

When one woman questioned whether residents would actually get out and about, Smith said that he often went on walks with his mother-in-law around Liberty Shores and they would go out eating or shopping about once a week.

Developers are still negotiating with Martha & Mary — which runs a nursing home in Poulsbo — to manage the assisted living facility, Smith said.

View site plans here.

Article on Smarter Balanced raises questions about opting kids out

You may have noticed in our article today (March 10) on the advent of Smarter Balanced testing a line about a teacher in Central Kitsap School District who plans to opt his own daughter out of the new state standardized test.

Robert Reynolds, a Silverdale Elementary teacher, will dutifully give the tests to his students, but he’s opting out his eighth-grade daughter on principle.

“I just think there’s so much time preparing for this test, months actually, it takes time away from the classroom with the teacher,” Reynolds said.

To get an idea of the district’s testing schedule, see documents embedded below that show not only the schedule for Smarter Balanced testing, but all standardized and other tests, such as screening tests for gifted students. As you can see, there’s some kind of testing going on pretty much throughout the year. State Superintendent Randy Dorn is among those who have proposed legislation to pare down the amount of testing to which students are subjected.
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I asked Reynolds if he knew the process for opting out. He did not believe there was a formal process and anticipated no problem accomplishing his goal by simply telling the district his daughter would not be taking the test.

According to a Washington Post article published March 9, states are far from uniform in their response to the growing “opt-out” movement. “The lack of clear rules and information has left plenty of uncertainty about how and whether parents can opt out of tests and what the consequences might be, not only for individual students, but for schools and school districts,” the article states.

The article cites a recent analysis by the Education Commission of the States, an organization that tracks education trends, showing that few states explicitly allow or prohibit test refusal, Arkansas and Texas being two exceptions to the latter. Legislation recently was introduced in New Jersey and North Dakota to allow opt-outs. Similar legislation in Mississippi failed to move forward, according to the ECS report. State laws in California and Utah allow parents to opt their children out of state assessments for any reason. Michigan’s Department of Education “discourages but does not prohibit” opt outs, the report states. Oregon and Pennsylvania excuse students from state testing to accommodate religious beliefs.

And in other recent coverage of the issue, we find in the Denver Post Colorado’s State Board of Education voting earlier not to hold districts accountable if not enough students take the tests. In Illinois, “The latest guidance from the state suggests that a note from a parent won’t work. A child must be presented with a paper testing booklet or a “test ticket” to a computer-based exam, and refuse to take each section of the test, records show,” according to a March 4 article in the Chicago Tribune.

If you look on the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s website under “assessments” there’s nothing that jumps right out and says, “Opt out; here’s how.”

“It’s not really optional,” said Robin Munson, the state’s assistant superintendent for assessment and student information. “But,” she added, “it’s not mandatory every student must take it.”

In short, parents can opt their student out but there are consequences to the student and the state, Munson says.

While most students taking the test this year won’t need it to graduate, the state needs their results to comply with No Child Left Behind, the federal act that sets accountability standards for schools. State Superintendent Randy Dorn has warned Seattle’s Nathan Hale High School that its decision to boycott the test for its 11th-graders, citing over-testing, could cost the state federal money.

The feds this year will look at scores of students in third through eighth grade and 11th-graders to determine if schools have made Adequate Yearly Progress. (Washington State schools all will fail miserably due to being out of compliance with federal requirements under NCLB, but that’s another story.)

Tenth-graders will take the English language arts Smarter Balanced, which will be a graduation requirement for them in 2017 and the Class of 2018. Those classes will have several options to meet the state’s math testing requirement, including Smarter Balanced. The Class of 2019 is the first that will be required to pass both the math and ELA Smarter Balanced tests.

On a side note: Graduation testing requirements are slightly different for each class between now and 2019, as the state phases out the HSPE and EOC (end of course exams in geometry and algebra) and phases in the Smarter Balanced test. To see what your child will be required to do, visit OSPI’s testing page.

Technically 10th graders could wait to attempt the Smarter Balanced English language arts test (those who meet the “cut score” — a 3 or 4 on a scale of four — don’t have to take it again in 11th grade). But, says Munson, “You don’t want to be the school that doesn’t give your students the opportunity.”

Students who score a 3 or 4 on the tests will automatically be placed in college-level math and English language arts classes, through an agreement with the state community and technical colleges, and public four-year universities. This will save students the need for placement tests, and save families the cost of students taking remedial courses. Students who score below that will get extra help through coursework developed by the Smarter Balanced Consortium to get them up to speed and ready for life before they graduate from high school.

Finally, said Kristen Jaudon, OSPI spokeswoman, “Not having students take the new tests robs educators of a fair and equitable measure of student progress. They won’t be able to see gaps between groups of students, which means the students who most need help may not get it.”

Adding to the confusion over why students in high school should or shouldn’t take the test, 10th grade formerly was the federal accountability year; now it’s 11th. And this fall OSPI and the Smarter Balanced Consortium agreed that both 11th and 10th graders would take the same assessment, which has been referred to all along at the 11th grade assessment. Too far into the weeds? OK, I’ll stop here.

Bottom line, Munson said, “I do think it’s mandatory to test all students.”

So now I’ll put it out there to parents, teachers and other educators, “What do you think?”

Chris Henry
(360) 792-9219
chenry@kitsapsun.com
https://www.facebook.com/chrishenryreporter



ADA makes provisions for miniature horses as service animals

Today we’re reporting on a guide dog in training at Green Mountain Elementary School that called on Central Kitsap School District to examine its policy on service animals. District officials agreed that Bridget, a 7-month-old yellow lab, did not fit the definition of a service animal because she is not yet trained and or assigned to a person with a disability. For lack of a policy, the dog, who has many fans at the school, was banned from the classroom from November through late January. A revised policy allows for guide dogs in training at the discretion of the school principal with a written agreement.

Covering this story got me to wondering what does qualify as a service animal, especially since I have heard about miniature horses used to help people with disabilities. Just how does the Americans with Disabilities Act define “reasonable accommodation?”

Service animals perform many tasks from guiding the blind, alerting people are who are deaf, and calming a person with PTSD to pulling a wheelchair and protecting a person who is having a seizure, according to the ADA.

A revision to the ADA effective in 2011 refined and clarified the definition of “service animal” in light of wider use of service dogs and the advent of using miniature horses to perform tasks for people with disabilities.

As of the revision, only dogs are recognized as service animals under Title II of the ADA (state and local government services) and Title III (public accommodations and commercial facilities). A service animal is a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Generally, under Title II and III, service animals are allowed to accompany people with disabilities in all areas where the public is allowed to go.

A person with a disability may not be asked to remove his dog from premises unless it is out of control and the handler doesn’t take immediate, effective action, or if it is not housebroken.

Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals.

Dogs not specifically trained to perform tasks related to a disability, but whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA, but are recognized under the broader definition of “assistance animal.” The Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Act allows for assistance animals as a “reasonable accommodation” where housing facility rules would otherwise prohibit them.

Miniature horses, which range in height from 24 to 30 inches at the shoulders and from 70 to 100 pounds in weight, have their own regulations. Entities, like schools, covered by the ADA must modify their policies to permit miniature horses as service animals “where reasonable.” A four-part test determines what’s reasonable: whether the horse is housebroken; whether it is under the owner’s control; whether the facility can accommodate the animals size, type and weight; and whether the miniature horse’s presence “will not compromise legitimate safety requirements” for operating the facility.