By the new year, school boards across the province will be expected to have developed policies to allow Ontario service dogs in schools. Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced today that boards have until January 1 to come up with new rules. Service dogs will be allowed to accompany students who need them in the classroom to learn.
“I want to ensure that every child, irrespective of their needs, has the opportunity to achieve their highest potential,” Lecce said in a statement.
“Every child has inherent human dignity — particularly those with special needs — and that is why this positive step forward, led by Sam Oosterhoff and Amy Fee, will help support the success of all kids in the classroom.”
Amy Fee is a caucus member who "fought for years" for her autistic son to be able to bring his service animal to school with him, CTV News reports. Her son, Kenner, is prone to high anxiety and can act out if it gets to be too much for him. His service dog keeps Kenner calm throughout the day, according to the family.
Before it is implemented, there will be certain concerns that will need to be addressed, such as allergies, for example.
“The hope is that they can create a service policy that allows animals in the classroom,” said Lecce in the announcement at JW Gerth Public School in Kitchener, Global News reports. “There’s other considerations, including the other children in the class.”