Cherry Hill BOE to consider revised policy on service animals in January

On the board of education’s work session agenda for Jan. 10, a revised policy on service animals is listed as an item the board could vote on at its Jan. 24 action meeting.

The Cherry Hill Board of Education will likely consider a newly revised policy on service animals in school during its January action meeting.

A revision of policy 5337 — service animals is on the work session agenda for the board’s meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 10. The board could vote on the revised policy on first reading on Tuesday, Jan. 24.

Earlier this week, Cherry Hill High School East junior Ben Shore posted a number of videos on his YouTube channel showing a discussion he had with Cherry Hill Public Schools Superintendent Joe Meloche about the district’s policy on service animals during the board of education policy and legislation committee meeting on Jan. 2. Shore, who is on the autism spectrum and suffers from panic attacks, was lobbying to bring his service dog, Charlie, to school.

In the video, Shore said the district’s policy contradicts state and federal law. New Jersey statute 18A:46–13.3 says, “A student with a disability, including autism, shall be permitted access for a service animal in school buildings, including the classroom, on school buses and on school grounds.”

The school district’s policy says a teacher and principal may recommend the use of a service animal in schools, subject to the following:

• The presence of the animal is announced to the building community in advance, and the health plans of all students to be in the proximity of the animal be reviewed for allergic reaction or other health concerns.

• The trainer of the animal is appropriately licensed and insured and can certify to the safety of the animal.

• The parent of the child to be assisted has documented permission for or has requested the service animal.

• The principal and teacher have described the benefits of the program to the child.

• The health plan, 504 Plan or IEP (individual education plan) have been amended to reflect this service.

• In the event that there is a conflict between the relative benefits of the service animal as opposed to a negative effect on other students’ health due to allergic reaction or other health concern, the issue will be resolved by having the functions toward independence accomplished by a teacher assistant.

• The relevant assistant superintendent or director is notified and approves via signature.

The policy also prohibits having a service animal on a school bus.

In Shore’s videos, Meloche responded multiple times by saying there was a process for allowing Shore to have his dog in school.

Check back with The Cherry Hill Sun for more updates on this story.