ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Brainerd Public Schools: Schools to permit dogs, mini horses as service animals

A policy for service animals is now in place in the Brainerd School District. Three people in the district--both students and staff members--requested to use service animals this year, but until now, there was no policy in place, Superintendent L...

Brainerd School Board members listen to speakers during their Monday, Nov. 26, board meeting at the Washington Educational Services Building. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch
Brainerd School Board members listen to speakers during their Monday, Nov. 26, board meeting at the Washington Educational Services Building. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

A policy for service animals is now in place in the Brainerd School District.

Three people in the district-both students and staff members-requested to use service animals this year, but until now, there was no policy in place, Superintendent Laine Larson told the school board in October.

The policy defines a service animal as a dog or miniature horse "individually trained to perform 'work or tasks' for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including an individual with a physical, sensory psychiatric, intellectual or mental disability." The work or tasks performed by the service animal, the policy reads, must be directly related to the individual's disability. Tasks include, but are not limited to: assisting blind or low-vision individuals with navigation, alerting those who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing nonviolent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting handlers to the presence of allergens, retrieving items like medicine or a telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability for those with mobility disabilities, and helping individuals with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors.

Under the policy, service animals must have a leash, harness or other tether if they are able to and are allowed to be present on district property and in district facilities, attend or participate in school-sponsored events and activities, and be transported in a vehicle operated by or on behalf of the district. The school district is not responsible for the care or supervision of the animal but is also not allowed to isolate the handler from those without animals, require the handler to pay any extra fee, or treat handlers less favorably than those without service animals.

The handler is liable for any harm or damage caused by their service animal, and an animal may be removed from district premises if it is out of control and the handler does not take immediate action to control it.

ADVERTISEMENT

Some board members expressed concern about allowing miniature horses in school facilities under the ordinance, but Larson said the district's policy reflects state laws on service animals, which include horses. She also said all service animals in the district right now are dogs.

The policy states the district must make reasonable modifications in policies, practices or procedures to permit the use of a miniature horse. In determining whether reasonable modifications can be made, the district may consider: the type, size and weight of the horse; whether the handler has sufficient control of the horse; whether the horse is housebroken; and whether the horse's presence in a specific facility compromises safety requirements.

If a student or employee notifies the district of allergies to a service animal, the district will balance the rights of the individuals involved. Generally, the policy says, non-life-threatening allergies are not a valid reason for prohibiting the presence of a service animal.

After two previous readings in late October and early November, the board approved the policy Monday.

In other business Monday, the school board:

Approved the resignations of Nicholas O'Reilly, a special education paraprofessional at Riverside Elementary School; and Rebecca Clark-Randall, a special education paraprofessional at Brainerd High School.

Approved gifts and donations to the district: $250 from Lexington Manufacturing for robotics at BHS; $1,079 from Black Ridge Bank for homecoming; $750 from Brainerd Rotary Foundation for the STEM club at Forestview Middle School; $145 of parent donations for band at Forestview; $500 from Clark Lake Homes Inc. for the veterans program at Riverside; and $50 from Consolidated Telephone Co. for robotics at BHS.

Approved an extended field trip application for fourth-grade students at Garfield Elementary to go to Deep Portage Environmental Learning Center Jan. 22-23.

ADVERTISEMENT

Scheduled another joint session with the city council for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 4, at city hall.

Related Topics: SCHOOL BOARDPOLICY
Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
What To Read Next
Inmates in-custody in the Todd County jail in Long Prairie, Minnesota
Inmates in-custody in the Wadena County jail in Wadena, Minnesota
Inmates in-custody in the Aitkin County jail in Aitkin, Minnesota
Inmates in-custody in the Beltrami County jail in Bemidji, Minnesota