The girl's mother, Donna Osborn, said the dog, Chili, is a service dog that helps Molohon with specific tasks, and should be allowed under the Americans with Disabilities Act. But she said the school committee determined Chili is nothing more than a "comfort animal" — a dog that helps a person feel better emotionally but does not have training to assist with specific tasks related to a disability.
Comfort animals aren't allowed under district policy.
In March 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice changed its regulations to clarify that comfort animals don't meet the definition of service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act. That means governmental entities, including school districts, aren't necessarily required by law to allow the animals on their premises.
But Osborn said Chili provides her daughter with much more than emotional support. She started using the dog, and the district allowed it, in ninth grade. But at the start of her junior year in 2011, in response to the new guidance from the Justice Department, the district changed its mind, Osborn said.
She believes the district is discriminating against her daughter because Chili meets the definition of a service dog.