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School board to consider service animal policy

School supply photo illustration. (Matt Gade/Republic)

The Mitchell Board of Education will move to approve a policy allowing service animals in Mitchell schools at its meeting to be held at 5 p.m. Monday in the Mitchell Middle School cafeteria.

The proposed policy would allow students or school employees to have animals with them on school grounds if those animals are doing tasks related to an individual's disability and are licensed and vaccinated. The policy will be considered on first reading.

The policy includes a non-comprehensive list of disabilities that could require a service animal, such as being blind, deaf, in a wheelchair, prone to seizures, needing assistance with balance or stability or having psychiatric or neurological disabilities. It would not, however, allow emotional support animals, unless those animals perform other work related to a disability.

While the policy initially states that only dogs would be allowed as service animals in schools, it includes a provision stating that miniature horses could be permitted if the horse is trained to assist with a disability, meets size, type and weight criteria that schools can accommodate, doesn't disrupt school safety and is housebroken.

If passed, those bringing a service animal into Mitchell schools would not be required to alert administration that they will be doing so, but it would be strongly encouraged. School administrators would be allowed to have the animal removed if it doesn't meet the criteria outlined by the proposed policy or if it presents a hygiene or safety hazard.

Other business

In other matters, the board will consider:

• The process and timelines established for potentially enrolling district employees currently not covered by the South Dakota Retirement System.

• Approving a successful bid for the purchase of a 14-person white mini-bus for transporting small groups of students for extracurricular and other activities.

• Fees and expenses reported to the board.

• The board will also take a tour of the Mitchell Middle School campus, as well.

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