Ontario Announces Supports for Students with Special Needs
New Policy to Improve Access to Service Animals in Schools
Kitchener, ON — Ontario's government is supporting students and their families when making requests to bring their service animals into schools and classrooms. Today, the Honourable Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education; Sam Oosterhoff, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Education; and Amy Fee, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, announced a new policy directive in support of Ontario students with special needs to improve their access to service animals in schools.
School boards are responsible for developing and implementing policies and procedures for service animals in schools. Currently, we know that just over half of Ontario school boards have service animal policies. With today's announcement, the Ministry of Education has effectively set a uniform standard of student access to service animals across the province.
"I want to ensure that every child, irrespective of their needs, has the opportunity to achieve their highest potential," said Minister Lecce. "Every child has inherent human dignity - particularly those with special needs - and that is why this positive step forward, led by Sam Oosterhoff and Amy Fee, will help support the success of all kids in the classroom."
"Service animals can make an enormous difference in a child's physical independence and emotional well-being," said Parliamentary Assistant Oosterhoff. "It's important to our government that students with special needs never fall through the cracks and having service animals in Ontario schools will help ensure these children have access to a meaningful education."
"I care deeply about Ontario students with special needs and, as a member of this government, I think about them every day," said Parliamentary Assistant Fee. "As a government, we are applying a compassionate eye to how these children are treated so we can enable their learning."
- Bill 48, the Safe and Supportive Classrooms Act, 2019, amended the Education Act to give the Minister of Education authority to establish policies and guidelines respecting service animals in schools.
- The Act also requires school boards to comply with these policies and guidelines, as well as develop their own board policies in accordance with those set by the Minister of Education.
- School boards are required to implement their service animal policies by January 1, 2020.