Teri Goldman, special education attorney and founding partner of Mickes Goldman O’Toole, LLC, provided expertise on the use of service animals in the recent edition of Special Education Connection, a national medium serving special education teachers, school administrators and attorneys.

“Some districts are letting (service animals) in (the classroom) without thinking through the legal issues or putting the decision through a team process,” Goldman told Special Education Connection. 

To confront public relations issues about service animals, Goldman said school districts should consult with legal counsel to determine what can and cannot be said to the media in press releases. She suggested that it is also helpful to inform reporters about FERPA so they understand there are two sides to the story, and that you are legally prohibited from disclosing information without parental consent.

Insofar as navigating law in area of service animals, Goldman said school districts should act carefully. “The law is unsettled, and districts without clear, definitive state laws like those in Illinois need to proceed with caution,” she said. “We’re making our clients aware of the issue and asking them to seek legal counsel if they receive a request for service animals.”