Happening Today: Education Week Leadership Symposium. Learn more and register.
Student Well-Being

Conflicting Health Needs Put Student, Teacher at Odds

By Cheryl Gamble — January 29, 1997 2 min read

What do school officials do when faced with choosing between the health needs of a student and those of a teacher? In the case of one Michigan district, officials recently faced, and resolved, the dilemma before the matter spilled over into a courtroom.

Susan Cares is a substitute teacher for the 1,200-student Jonesville Community School District in the town of the same name about 80 miles south of Lansing. She also has muscular dystrophy and needs to use a service dog on school grounds. But the animal poses a health risk to a student who is severely asthmatic, according to his doctor.

The male student, whose name was withheld by the district, is an 11th grader at Jonesville High School. Ms. Cares recently received a teaching assignment at the school, her alma mater.

The youth’s parents complained to school officials that the presence of Ms. Cares’ Labrador retriever would cause their son to suffer a severe asthma attack.

The district has helped accommodate the asthmatic student for a number of years, said Superintendent Daniel M. Woodward. Officials have taken other animals, such as hamsters and gerbils, out of classrooms to protect him.

According to the teenager’s allergist, Dr. James McDonald, the student is so allergic to animal fur that just being in the same building can trigger an attack.

Linda Bleimehl, a spokeswoman for the Milwaukee-based American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, said that 15 percent of the population suffers from cat or dog allergies. For asthmatics, the number rises to 20 to 30 percent, she said.

Opening Doors

But Ms. Cares also needs some accommodation. She uses her dog to perform tasks such as turning on lights or opening classroom doors because she doesn’t have the strength to tackle them herself.

The dog “pulls Susan along in her manual wheelchair, props her up in her chair if she slumps down, or answers the phone,” said Michael Sapp, the chief operating officer of Paws With a Cause. The Byron Center, Mich.-based nonprofit group trains animals to assist the disabled. It has 1,200 dogs in homes around the country, including the dog it placed with Ms. Cares eight months ago.

Although the Labrador’s chores may seem menial, Mr. Sapp said, her absence can have serious implications for Ms. Cares. Several weeks ago, Ms. Cares voluntarily left the dog at home while the situation was being negotiated, and got stuck outside a school building in the cold until someone saw her and let her in. Ms. Cares could not open the door, a task the dog could have performed for her.

At least for now, the issue has been settled. The teacher decided this month that she would not bring the dog to the high school. For its part, the district has agreed to provide Ms. Cares with an aide to help with the school tasks that her dog would normally do.

Mr. Woodward said he was happy that a resolution was reached without legal action. “We tried to help everyone as well as we knew how,” he said.

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Law & Courts Webinar
The Future of Criminal Justice Reform: A Sphere Education Initiative Conversation
America’s criminal justice system is in crisis and calls for reform are dominating the national debate. Join Cato’s Sphere Education Initiative and Education Week for a webinar on criminal justice and policing featuring the nation’s
Content provided by Cato Institute
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Here to Stay – Pandemic Lessons for EdTech in Future Development
What technology is needed in a post pandemic district? Learn how changes in education will impact development of new technologies.
Content provided by AWS

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Whitepaper
The Complete Guide to SEL
This guide illustrates why SEL is more important now and what you should look for when implementing a social-emotional curriculum.
Content provided by Navigate360
Student Well-Being How Educators Are Approaching Summer Learning This Year
After a difficult year, schools adjust what's best for students as they customize summer learning, enrichment, and play opportunities.
9 min read
Image of kids with backpacks running outdoors.
iStock/Getty
Student Well-Being Cardona Releases First Wave of Aid to Help Schools Identify, Assist Homeless Students
Citing the urgency of identifying homeless students, the Education Department will release some relief aid targeted at their needs.
3 min read
Rycc Smith welcomes Montello Elementary School students as they board his bus outside the Lewiston, Maine school after the first day back in nearly a month on Jan. 21, 2021. The entire school district switched to all remote learning after an uptick in COVID-19 cases last month.
Elementary school students board a bus in Lewiston, Maine, after their first day back to in-person school in nearly a month on Jan. 21. Advocates say it has been more difficult to identify homelessness during remote learning, in part because they can't track changes in students' use of school transportation.
Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal via AP
Student Well-Being Spotlight Spotlight on Post-Pandemic Communications
In this Spotlight, review lessons from other leaders, evaluate what can be done to address the situations experienced and more.