Boy’s autism assistance dog banned from classroom
Adelaide Advertiser: A young boy’s autism assistance dog has been banned from his public school classroom because of the health risk animal hair poses to other children.
Parent Jodie Davidson says labrador Cobolt has made the world of difference to her son Aiden, 7, a Year 2 student at O’Sullivan Beach School, since the dog became part of their family about 18 months ago.
Cobolt helps Aiden stay calm and protects him in dangerous places such as shopping centre carparks.
While an initial agreement with the school was for Cobolt not to enter buildings, Mrs Davidson said Aiden had since “found his voice” and repeatedly asked if the dog could come into the classroom.
She said after the school denied the family’s requests, she decided to “push the boundaries” by taking Cobolt into class for the first time last Friday when Aiden refused to go to school otherwise.
“We were in Aiden’s classroom for about seven minutes. The kids loved him. It was hunky dory and we walked out,” she said.
Later that day, the Davidsons received a letter from the school saying its anaphylaxis and allergy policy “clearly states that animal hair can be a trigger for this”, so parents should not bring animals into school buildings.
Mrs Davidson said it was “like they are trying to treat (Cobolt) like an average Joe Blow dog off the street”, adding teachers were now “guarding the building” so the dog could not get in.
She said the school had compromised last year by allowing Cobolt into the office area, but that had not worked because other students assumed Aiden was in trouble because he was always seen in the office.
An Education Department spokeswoman said schools “must consider the needs of all students to keep children safe and well”, and the agreement with the Davidsons “also takes into account the medical condition of another peer”.
She said the school would keep working with the family “to ensure the agreement reflects (Aiden’s) needs, while ensuring a safe environment is maintained for other students”.
Cobolt, 5, was trained by the Labs ‘n Life organisation, partly through programs run in other schools where children work closely with dogs, including in classrooms.
Labs ‘n Life senior manager Sue Dansie said a compromise solution was needed, such as allowing Cobolt to come as far as the classroom door.