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East Meadow School District Discriminates Against Deaf Student Because of Service Dog January 10, 2007

Posted by C.A.R.D in Card, Discriminate, Discrimination, Human Rights, illegal.

The standoff between a Nassau County school district and a family whose deaf son wants to take a service dog to school continued yesterday, despite a budding state human rights investigation into the controversy.
East Meadow School District officials appeared to dig in their heels after the state Division of Human Rights began an investigation into the district’s refusal to allow John Cave, 14, to bring the dog, Simba, to W. Tresper Clarke High School. John, who has limited hearing with the aid of cochlear implants, was rebuffed yesterday for the fourth consecutive school day.

The state investigation was ordered last week after news reports about the dispute between the boy’s parents, John and Nancy Cave, and district officials. Kumiki Gibson, commissioner-designate of the human rights division, said she hoped the investigation can be completed quickly, though she conceded it could take several months.

Gibson, who took office last week, said the investigation is the first initiated by the agency in more than a decade. Normally, the division acts on complaints filed by the public.

“It seemed like there was a violation,” Gibson said. “As soon as we found out about it, we started an investigation. … It just jumped out at me as the kind of thing that our long list of laws calls on us to investigate.”

If investigators find the district in violation of state human rights law, Gibson said, she could order officials to let John take the dog to school. She also could seek monetary damages for the family or order the district to rewrite its policies governing animals in school. The district has the right to appeal, she said.

District superintendent Robert Dillon did not return phone calls requesting comment yesterday. The district has not explained its decision.

Nancy Cave said she was frustrated with the pace of the state investigation.

“Another two or three weeks is what they’re telling me,” she said. “I’m not happy with the response. … Personally, I think the governor should call Dillon.”

School officials have said the family must obtain permission from the district’s committee on special education before John can take Simba to class. The Caves say they requested permission more than a year ago in anticipation of getting a service dog. They believe John and Simba must be together around the clock in order to bond.

The family obtained Simba two weeks ago. The dog has been trained to alert John to potential danger, such as smoke and fire alarms.

In what has become a daily ritual, John approached the school yesterday with Simba and was met at the main entrance by Principal Timothy Voels, who told him the dog was not allowed in the building. With a CNN television crew taping the encounter from about 80 yards away, John handed the leash to his mother, who took the yellow Labrador retriever to the family car.

John and his twin sister, Jessica, then walked into the school.

Also yesterday, a spokesman for Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) said the congresswoman is monitoring the dispute. The Cave family wrote to McCarthy, requesting assistance, spokesman George Burke said. “We received the letter and we are reviewing the situation,” he said. “If it turns out the child is being wronged, then obviously we will step in.”

“New York has begun its investigation under the State Human Rights Law, Sect. 296.14:

It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice for any person engaged in any activity covered by this section to discriminate against a blind person, a hearing-impaired person who has a hearing impairment manifested by a speech discrimination score of 40 percent or less in the better ear with appropriate correction as certified by a licensed audiologist or otolaryngologist, as defined in section 789 of the general business law or a physician who has examined such person pursuant to the provisions of article 37A of such law or a person with a disability on the basis of his or her use of a guide dog, hearing dog or service dog.”

Take Action:

East  Meadow School District

(516) 478-5730

Superintendent of Schools

Dr. Robert Dillon

Email: rdillon@eastmeadow.k12.ny.us
Phone: (516) 478-5776

C.a.r.d {Citizens Against Racism and Discrimination} Source: Newsday

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