SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CN) – Illinois has sided with a family that’s fighting for their autistic child to be able to bring his service dog to school. State Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan filed papers with the 5th District Appellate Court in Mount Vernon, announcing her office’s intention to file a brief in support of Chris and Melissa Kalbfleisch, of Columbia, Ill.
The Kalbfleisches sued the Columbia School District after the district refused to accommodate their son’s service dog.
Madigan said she believes the case “has the potential to set precedent that will impact other Illinois students with disabilities who use service animals.”
The Kalbfleisches claim that the dog, Corbin, a year-old Bouvier, soothes their son, reduces his tantrums and helps him better interact with the outside world.
They say their son has the right to bring the dog to school under an existing state law that permits service dogs to attend any school function.
The school district argued that other children could not tolerate the dog, and that the dog was not part of the boy’s individual education plan, which meant the dog was not necessary to the district’s ability to provide an appropriate education as required by law.
In September, the 5th Circuit upheld a preliminary injunction issued by a Monroe County Circuit Judge that required the school district to accommodate the dog by Sept. 14.
Instead of accommodating the dog, the school district opted to pay for the boy and the dog to attend the Illinois Center for Autism in Fairview Heights until the case is decided.