All-Island School Committee considers new animals in school policy

All-Island School Committee considers new animals in school policy

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A second reading of a new draft policy on animals in school is on the All-Island School Committee’s (AISC) agenda tonight. The committee’s last meeting of the 2010-11 school year starts at 7 pm in the Culinary Arts dining room at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.

Superintendent of schools James Weiss presented the draft policy to the AISC for a first reading at a meeting on April 27. The new policy stemmed from regulations in the amended Title 2 of the Americans with Disabilities Act published last September.

School districts are now required to have a policy regarding the presence and use of service animals in school. A sample policy provided by the Department of Secondary and Elementary Education included a prohibition against all fur-bearing animals in schools, including pet dogs and cats, with the exception of service animals.

“This is awful,” retired teacher and long-time school committee member Priscilla Sylvia said. “That means a child can’t even bring a new puppy to show and tell.”

Mr. Weiss said the AISC had the latitude to set the animal policy’s guidelines for the Island’s schools, however. Ms. Sylvia offered to rewrite the policy and revised the animals in the classroom section, which is included in the draft for tonight’s reading. She said she looked online at other school districts’ animal policies for ideas.

Ms Sylvia’s version specifies that only domesticated species would be acceptable in classrooms. And before bringing an animal, reptile, or bird into a classroom, a teacher and school health services provider must determine if any children in the class are allergic to a selected pet. Principals must give prior permission and have the final say on any animal allowed in the school building.

The AISC also will do a second reading of a policy regarding grade placement and eligibility for high school graduation for students who leave a Commonwealth Charter School and seek to enroll in a district school.

Policies for Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools undergo three readings before final approval at AISC meetings, which are open to the public, and comments are invited.