TY to John F. for sharing. This helps to show that as we approach in 2015 the 25th Anniversary of the passage of the ADA, we must still continue all efforts of equality for those with disabilities now, and the future of equality.
Finally, Justice for Jasper
Finally, Justice for Jasper
Aledo Times Record | By Cala Smoldt/Staff Reporter | Dec 23, 2014
Colin and Brandi McGuire released this statement following the decision in the dispute with Sherrard School District Dec. 18, 2014:
"The McGuire family is very pleased with the Impartial Hearing Officer’s waell-reasoned and factually detailed ruling. The Impartial Hearing Officer found that Sherrard Community Unit School District #200 denied the McGuire’s daughter a Free and Appropriate Public Education by denying her right to bring Jasper with her to school and by creating a hostile environment for their daughter.
While the litigation process is likely not concluded, this is an important step toward achieving justice not only for their daughter and Jasper, but for all children dealing with disabilities who seek unfettered public access with service animals.
The McGuires are thankful to the community for their overwhelming outpouring of support which helped them through this trying and emotional time. The McGuires would also like to publicly thank all the individuals, professionals, certified teachers, and others who, against enormous pressure, testified in the Due Process hearing.
This matter is not fully resolved but this is a big first step and the McGuires intend to take the next steps necessary to seek reimbursement for the attorney’s fees associated with this Due Process proceeding."
An Impartial Hearing Officer, Michael Risen, for the Illinois State Board of Education handed down a decision in the Due Process Hearing between Sherrard CUSD #200 and Colin and Brandi McGuire. The McGuire's were awarded tuition reimbursement for the remainder of the 2013-14 school year and all of 2014-15 school year. They were also awarded travel costs between home and Jordan Catholic School in Rock Island. Sherrard School District was ordered to convene an IEP (Individualized Education Program) team to develop an IEP to meet 9 year old Kellsey's other health impairment needs and ordered the team to decide how to include the student's service dog in the IEP.
The McGuire's young daughter, Kellsey McGuire suffers from seizures and requires a service dog, Jasper, to notify them before one might occur, allowing them to render life saving methods. Brandi McGuire notified her school, Sherrard Elementary, in December 2013 that Kellsey will begin bringing a service dog. The school welcomed him with open arms, even holding an assembly to educate students and staff on how to respond to Jasper.
It wasn't long until a conflict arose between the art teacher, Ms. Hillary Plog, and the service dog, Jasper. Jasper was trained by DAD (Disability Assistance Dogs). Plog also trains service dogs, unassociated with that organization. Legal documents say, "...Hillary Plog's behaviors were more consistent with a persistent effort to prove her belief of Jasper's perceived lack of training by sending emails and documents to her superiors that demonstrated what (she) believed to be the law governing service animals."
Mrs. McGuire was told by Principal Victoria Connelly repeatedly that she could not send Jasper to school with Kellsey. Due to frequent high stress and anxiety situations Kellsey continued to have seizures as a direct result. The McGuire's sought measures to remedy the situation by removing Kellsey from Hillary Plog's, once per week art class. The conflict between the art teacher and administration escalated causing the McGuire's to remove Kellsey entirely from Sherrard School District. She began attending Jordan Catholic School, where Kellsey and Jasper have both attended with no issues to date.
In closed hearings the Impartial Hearing Officer (IHO) with the Illinois State Board of Education, listened to a cast of witnesses including several employees of Sherrard School District, family friends, bystanders, Superintendent Samuel Light, and Hillary Plog, identified as District Music Teacher (though not with Sherrard). Due process hearings are an administrative remedy available to parents of children, according to attorney for the McGuire's, John Doak said, "(the) State Board of Education assigns an impartial hearing officer. Because it's such a highly specialized and technical area, they want somebody, the hearing officer, to have a very good understanding and familiarity with those issues. It's not like a court system, (there are) relaxed rules so the best interest of the child is what is paramount."
Court documents state that, "after considering the presented testimony and reviewed documents presented as the evidence at hearing, as well as the arguments of both parties, the IHO made these Findings of Fact," some of which include:
During the assembly, Jan. 13, intended to welcome Jasper, the mother and other staff members observed Plog texting during the assembly. Principal Connelly testified that Plog informed her that she had called the Department of Justice to inform them of the violations that she believed occurred with jasper during the assembly.
The incidents began Jan. 22, the first full day Jasper attended school with Kellsey, without her mother present. During the final period of the day Kellsey and Jasper went to art class. The art teacher, Plog, opened the door to the classroom suddenly and the door hit the wall loudly and Jasper barked, causing Plog's service dog in the classroom to bark. The student successfully redirected Jasper and he sat as directed while Plog's service dog continued to bark. As a result of the continued barking from Plog's service dog, a paraprofessional, Cheryl Schulte, escorted Kellsey and Jasper back to the 2nd grade classroom. At this point Plog commented within earshot of the student, "That's no way a service dog is supposed to act." Following this encounter, Kellsey was upset that Plog did not want her and Jasper in art class as a result of this incident. Later the same day, Jasper alerted her parents while at home that Kellsey was experiencing a seizure in her bedroom.