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Eva Heisch says school turned away her disabled daughter, service dog

11:06 AM, Sep 13, 2013   |    comments
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Summerton, SC (WLTX) -- A South Carolina mother is upset after she says her disabled daughter was turned away at school for having a service dog.

This year was the first time Eva Heisch got to take her 4-year-old daughter, Sophia, to school, but Heisch said it hasn't been the experience she was expecting.

"The school has been fighting me for several months," Heisch said. "There's been a lot of confrontations, and with them accommodating my daughter's disabilities."

Sophia has been diagnosed with autism, and as part of her treatment, a psychiatrist, in a written statement, said that Sophia "requires" a service dog and "needs to be tethered to her service dog."

Heisch said her daughter has also been diagnosed with ADHD and epilepsy. 

"We immediately encountered opposition when we walked through the door with her service animal," Heisch said. "The principal confronted us and told us dogs were not allowed in the school."

That was at school Wednesday, Heisch said, after which she says she explained that the dog was needed for her daughter's treatment, so she thought the issue was resolved.

"Today they told us that her service animal would no longer be allowed in school," Heish said.

She said that prompted her to call the Summerton Police.\

"They said that because the school does not want her service animal there," Heish said, "that my daughter is no longer allowed to attend school with her service animal or myself."

The Superintendent for Clarendon School District One, Dr. Rose Wilder, declined to comment about the matter on camera, but issued a statement:

"I respectfully decline to address the allegation that we would not allow a service animal to accompany a student in one of our schools.  However, I can assure the public, that Clarendon School District One will not knowingly or willfully violate the civil rights of any student."

South Carolina Department of Education spokesman J.W. Ragley said there are certain rules that must be followed if service animals are required.

"Some students, under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, have a right to have a service dog, or service animal with them in school," Ragley said.  "If a parent files a written complaint -- and so far we have no written complaint -- there would be a resolution within 60 days. But we are reviewing the matter that happened today."

Heisch and her daughter Sophia will keep waiting for a resolution.

"It was really upsetting," Heisch said. "And now that she's been told that she can't go to school because of this, it's very frustrating."

Clarendon School District One noted that as part of their policy, they must be notified in writing that a service dog is needed for a student. Heisch said she did notify them in writing.

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