BOZEMAN – The Bozeman School District is updating its policy for service animals.
Montana state law has followed federal law, which states that schools must allow students with disabilities to either have a trained service dog or miniature horse.
The miniature horse might sound silly, but it’s sturdy and able to help someone who struggles with walking. When it’s not obvious what service the animal is providing for the student, the district is only able to ask two questions.
“Is this required because of the disability and the second question is what task has it been trained to perform? So those are the only two questions of the animal,” Bozeman Schools Superintendent Bob Connors said.
The Bozeman School District’s policy currently has “other” animals included in it, and the Montana School Board Association is recommending the board decides to make its policy the same as federal and state law.
Even though the law says that the school district must allow service animals, when it comes to emotional support animals, it’s a different story.
“There’s a process you have to go through to allow that to happen because of the training and everything else. That would be a whole different circumstance than federal law,” Connors said.
Special education handles this process when it comes to an emotional support animal to ensure it’s fair for everyone.
“I empathize with the position that some of these kids are in. There are some mental situations that I really feel for the kids and we want to do what’s best for everybody involved, so we’re going to look at things through that lens and make sure everyone gets a fair shot at it,” Connors said.
Last year there were four service animals within the district and the board plans to revisit and decide on the policy next month.
Reporting by Emma Hamilton for MTN News