Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Crawford, Jon G.

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations


United States Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; Special education; Law; Children with disabilities--Education--Law and legislation; Animals as aids for people with disabilities--Law and legislation; Working animals--Research


The use of service animals is growing in the United States. Since public schools are a microcosm of society, it is not surprising requests for service animals to attend public school are growing as well. In the absence of a Supreme Court decision on service animals attending public schools, a systematic review of disability legislation, governing agencies' interpretation, and court decisions helps school officials develop appropriate policies and procedures for allowing students to attend school accompanied by a service animal.;This study involved an extensive search for historical and current litigation and legislation addressing issues related to the regulation of service animals within public schools. This area of the law is evolving. Three federal statutes govern public school students with disabilities: The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).;A service animal will typically be a reasonable accommodation for an otherwise qualified student with a disability. The animal needs to fit the DOJ service animal definition. In addition, the ADA's fundamental alteration and undue financial burden arguments cannot be applied easily to schools. Each service animal request should be considered on a case-by-case basis. This study found no judicial opinions or OCR complaints ruling a service animal was necessary in order to provide a FAPE as defined by the IDEA.;School officials must consider who will act as the service animal handler. Often the child is able to serve in this capacity. When the student already has a one-to-one aide or a good amount of adult support, school officials may just choose to train that employee as the service dog handler. When the student has no support personnel but cannot act as the handler, school officials need to decide who fill this role. Despite the OCR guidelines stating the employees of the facility are not required to care for the service dog, school officials need to apply an individual inquiry to determine if the handler would be necessary as part of the child's IEP or §504 plan. The study concludes with recommendations regarding what should be included in policies and procedures addressing parental requests for their child to attend school with a service animal.


Advisors: Jon G. Crawford.||Committee members: Christine Kiracofe; Kelly Summers.


195 pages




Northern Illinois University

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