A local parent wants her daughter, a special needs student who requires the use of a service animal, to be mainstreamed in classes at Millennium Charter Academy.
After initially refusing admittance to the child, school officials are now saying they plan to keep the child segregated in a room by herself.
Rebecca Lovette, whose daughter Bridget, is a kindergarten student, wants her daughter to attend the school along with her two older sisters, who are already students at Millennium. She has gathered materials to make her case to school officials about why she believes the school should allow Bridget to attend, and be in a classroom with other children. She and her daughter are scheduled to meet with Headmaster Kirby McCrary and several other school officials to work on Bridget’s Individual Educational Plan (IEP) today.
According to Lovette, initial concerns from the school included allegations by school officials that a teacher and fellow students were allergic to the service dog. Lovette reports Bridget’s service dog is a Great Pyrenees, which weighs 65 pounds and is fully grown. She said they keep the animal’s fur trimmed short because the breed is known to shed.
She said her case will be based on factors including Bridget being a high functioning, autistic child with an average IQ.
Now Lovette said school officials have claimed the child’s teacher is concerned seizures Bridget has could be disruptive, making her less effective with the full classroom. However, Lovette said she has found the lower school director and the teacher supportive of her cause.
“We have support from her teachers, it’s the higher ups we have been having a problem with,” said Lovette. “This has been going on since May. They are the only place in Mount Airy we have had a problem with. Other businesses have been great.” She explained the process for most of the summer appears to have been her coming up with solutions for concerns emailed to her by the academy.
Lovette said her understanding of federal law in this instance was an exceptional needs child’s IEP calls for the least restrictive environment for the one student involved and not the many. She said she is concerned with changes in a new family school handbook she has received which added the proviso the school retains its right to refuse to administer medications.
She said earlier language in this section only listed guidelines including having a physicians prescription for medication and labeling indicating dosage before medication would be administered at school.
Headmaster Kirby McCrary said the school cannot publicly comment on the specific case because of federal regulations, but said the academy “continually strives to meet the needs of students in the most effective and caring way possible” and indicated they are actively working with this family to resolve the issues at hand.
McCrary said the established procedure, which can be a 90-day process by law, is being fast tracked.
“We want children to have the least restrictive environment in the classroom as much as possible. There’s no disagreement. There is only possibilities. We do not make a decision until the IEP team gets together with all who are involved,” said McCrary. “We’ll look at all the information and come up with the best solution possible.”
David Broyles may be reached at 336-415-4739 or on Twitter@MtAiryNewsDave.