Family loses fight for autistic son to have service dog in class

Ontario's human rights tribunal has ruled that a nine-year-old autistic boy can't bring his service dog with him into class.

The decision says Kenner Fee's family failed to prove that having his black Labrador Ivy in the classroom would help him with his education.

Adjudicator and tribunal vice-chair Laurie Letheren found that the Waterloo Catholic District School Board took all necessary steps to evaluate whether the dog was needed in the classroom, and supported the board's decision not to allow the service animal to sit beside Kenner during lessons.

The tribunal heard from Kenner's family that his autism leaves him prone to agitation, emotional outbursts and even bolting from his surroundings, but that having Ivy beside him significantly helps regulate his behaviour.

Letheren accepted that evidence, but also accepted testimony from school board staff suggesting Kenner was performing well in class without Ivy, and that any problems he was encountering would not necessarily be addressed by the dog's presence.

Fee's lawyer Laura McKeen says the family is crushed by the decision and is considering their next steps, including Kenner's future education plans.

She says the Fees have the right to appeal the ruling, but have not yet decided if they will do so.