Emotional Support Animals
Airline rules on Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) have recently been in the news. These animals are critical tools for their handlers, but they are not the same as Service Animals which must be allowed in all public places. Airplanes and housing establishments are required to accommodate ESAs, subject to a few federal rules. But what to do when the ESA doesn't seem needed, or if it is misbehaved or dangerous? Do the rest of us have any rights? As the great Finneas (of Finneas and Ferb) would say, why yes, yes we do. Here we go:
ESA and the Rights of the General Public
Potential Conflicts with an ESA
Rights of an ESA and Their Handlers
I hope this information puts your mind at ease when encountering an animal in a public place. You always have the right to expect that an animal will not threaten your health or safety. If you have conditions that require separation from the animal, it is your right to be accommodated. You should not concern yourself if you don't "see why" someone might need an animal with them, as long as the animal does not bother you. And if (and only if) an animal does not conform to expected health or behavioral standards, you do have the right to have have the animal removed, and if you were harmed to be compensated for that harm. If you require any assistance in resolving a dispute regarding an ESA, or if you would like to determine whether an ESA would be appropriate for someone you know, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 847-977-9051.
All children with a disability that affects their ability access to public education have a constitutional right to accommodations. Determining whether a student receives accommodations and services depends on the child's individual needs.
For a time, the state of Texas had set a maximum percentage for students participating in special educational services. Even once the state eliminated the cap, the school system continued to exclude students from necessary services simply because they had trained teachers and administrators to deny services. It created a culture where services were automatically denied. The state has been ordered to remedy the situation, and have already started securing the resources to do so. New York Times, January 11, 2018.
“Every child with a disability must have appropriate access to special education and related services that meet his or her unique needs,” Ms. DeVos said in a statement announcing the regulatory action. “Far too many students in Texas had been precluded from receiving supports and services.”
Our children need parents to establish an appropriate 504 Plan or IEP when appropriate. Any time you have school policies, classroom and homework rules, testing environments, physical layout, or other aspects of "doing school" that get in the way of your child being their best student, it is appropriate to stop and consider whether "doing school" requires some ability with which your child struggles. Disability does not refer to your child's ability to be an amazing student; rather, it just means that the school did not anticipate the flexibility required to unleash your child's ability. Please contact me if I can be of assistance in that process.
Mari Franklin is a counselor at law who specializes in helping students secure accommodations at school.