Berardelli v. Allied Services Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, No. 17-1469 (3d Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
M.B., a second-grade student with dyslexia and epilepsy, took her service dog to school to detect and respond to her seizures. In third grade, M.B. switched to the School, which had a specialized program for dyslexic students. M.B.’s mother explained the need for a dog; the principal stated that M.B. was a “good fit.” Later, M.B. was paired with a new service dog, Buddy, but the principal asserted that Buddy would be “too much of a distraction.” Because Buddy was not allowed to accompany her, M.B. had extensive absences in third and fourth grades. In fifth grade, M.B.’s pediatric neurologist recommended that Buddy accompany M.B. at school. The principal then said that another student was allergic to dogs. M.B. missed school for more than two months. The parents of the allergic student informed the principal that they had arranged for allergy treatments and did not want M.B. to be excluded on their son’s behalf. The principal finally agreed that M.B. could return with Buddy in a special therapeutic shirt. The shirt made Buddy overheated and he failed to alert to M.B.’s seizures. At one point, M.B slept on the floor for hours after seizing. M.B. withdrew and enrolled in the local public school, which allowed Buddy to accompany her. M.B. had fallen behind and had to repeat fourth grade.
M.B.’s parents sued. The Third Circuit reinstated their Rehabilitation Act claim: As a matter of first impression, despite the absence of a regulation specifically interpreting the RA's mandate of “reasonable accommodations,” the RA generally requires that individuals with disabilities be permitted to be accompanied by their service animals, consistent with the mandate of “reasonable modifications” under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Such requested accommodations are per se reasonable.