File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS Kenner Fee poses with his service dog Ivy in an undated handout photo. Ontario’s human rights tribunal has ruled that Kenner, a nine-year-old autistic boy, cannot bring his service dog with him into his classroom.

Service dog not allowed in class for autistic boy

TORONTO — Ontario’s human rights tribunal has ruled that a nine-year-old autistic boy can’t bring his service dog with him into class.

The decision says Kenner Fee’s family failed to prove that having his black Labrador Ivy in the classroom would help him with his education.

Adjudicator and tribunal vice-chair Laurie Letheren found that the Waterloo Catholic District School Board took all necessary steps to evaluate whether the dog was needed in the classroom, and supported the board’s decision not to allow the service animal to sit beside Kenner during lessons.

The tribunal heard from Kenner’s family that his autism leaves him prone to agitation, emotional outbursts and even bolting from his surroundings, but that having Ivy beside him significantly helps regulate his behaviour.

Letheren accepted that evidence, but also accepted testimony from school board staff suggesting Kenner was performing well in class without Ivy, and that any problems he was encountering would not necessarily be addressed by the dog’s presence.

Fee’s lawyer Laura McKeen says the family is crushed by the decision and is considering their next steps, including Kenner’s future education plans. She says the Fees have the right to appeal the ruling, but have not yet decided if they will do so.

“They truly believe that Kenner’s service animal Ivy is essential to his entire life, including and specifically his education,” she said. “The Fees are devastated by the impact that decision is going to have on Kenner going forward.”

The Waterloo Catholic District School Board did not comment specifically on the decision other than to acknowledge the outcome in their favour.

The Aug. 30 tribunal decision chronicles a fight Kenner’s family began in April 2014 to get Ivy into the boy’s class.

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