Ontario school boards need to have clear, consistent policies when it comes to students’ service dogs — instead of the patchwork that now exists, says Education Minister Lisa Thompson.
As part of wide-ranging education legislation that passed first reading last week — the Safe and Supportive Classrooms Act — the government wants to “establish policies and guidelines respecting service animals in schools,” that boards must follow when creating their own rules.
Right now, 39 of 72 public boards have policies covering service dogs, which typically outline the documentation required and the steps schools must take when dealing with a request to allow an animal in a classroom.
“We heard first-hand from families who are frustrated” that one school board will allow a student’s service dogs that another board refused, Thompson said at Queen’s Park on Tuesday.
Mindful of the rights of students or teachers who are allergic, Thompson said the government will hold consultations with advocacy and support groups, as well as families and educators.
“That’s why we are opening it up to all parties,” Thompson said. “We want to make sure we get it right. That’s why we are listening to our teachers, our families, our partners.”