School District Agrees to Pay $130,000 Settlement for Barring Peanut-Detecting Service Dog

Lawsuit

The Bedminster, NJ school district agreed last Thursday to settle a suit alleging a sixth-grader with a life-threatening peanut allergy was not allowed to bring his service dog to school. The dog is specially trained to sniff out traces of peanuts.

The parents of the boy, identified only by his initials to protect his identity, alleged the district discriminated against the boy because of his disability and created a “hostile educational environment” by failing to stop bullying of the boy and his twin brother.

The district responded that the lawsuit was “frivolous” and maintained it had complied with all applicable laws and has acted “based on legitimate, non-discriminatory and non-retaliatory reasons and motives.” The district also denied “ever having refused (the boy) the benefit of his service dog.”

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The suit alleged the district would not allow the service dog because “some students may be allergic to the animal.” It also alleged the district “illegally required” the family to maintain a $1 million liability insurance policy for the dog

The boy had previously suffered anaphylaxis from airborne exposure to peanuts which left him in a coma for five days.

In settling the suit, the district agreed to pay $50,000+ to cover the parent’s legal costs, almost $50,000 to cover the parent’s expenses and $32,000+ to their twin sons.

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The district also agreed to:

  • Provide transportation for the twins and the service dog to and from school and extracurricular activities;
  • Allow the family and others to present a middle school assembly during recognition of Food Allergy Awareness Week in May 2020;
  • Mandate the school superintendent and principal read information from the federal Centers for Disease Control about food allergies by the end of the year.
  • Communicate guidelines for bringing food to school and how to read food labels;

“The matter has been resolved and we are moving forward,” Superintendent of Schools Jennifer Giordano said after the settlement was announced.

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