Quebec City student wins court victory to bring therapy dog to school

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Quebec City high school student Thomas Labonté and his family won a court victory this week against his school board, which previously ruled that he wasn’t allowed to bring his therapy dog to class.

Labonté’s parents took the Commission Scolaire de la Capitale, a French-language school board, to court and won the right for their 15-year-old to bring his therapy dog, Mika, to school.

The teenager, who has autism, relies on Mika to help keep him calm but the school board nixed the dog’s attendance on the basis that it would impact another student with allergies.

The Commission Scolaire de la Capitale also expressed concerns that the dog could pose a threat if anything set her off.

Conditional victory

The family also asked for $75,000 in damages from the school board, which was denied by the judge.

Based on the decision, Thomas will be allowed to bring Mika to class, but will have to change schools to avoid risk to the other student, who is allergic to dogs.

​He will also have to provide proof of insurance documentation for Mika, and proof that he’s completed the Mira assistance dog owner program.

Thomas’s dad, Michel Labonté, told CBC’s Quebec AM that his son feels extremely anxious when moving between classes and compared his son’s experience navigating a crowded hallway as a “living hell.”

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Michel said he sees the court ruling as “a step forward,” because it forces the school board to make accommodations for Thomas.

Thomas Labonté’s therapy dog Mika is from the Mira Foundation, which offers service and therapy dogs for free to disabled persons. (Radio-Canada)

Family loses second, unrelated case

The family put forward another case against the school board, asking for damages because they argued Thomas wasn’t put in a specialized program soon enough.

Thomas began kindergarten in 2008 in a regular class, but with added support. He was transferred to the specialized stream five years later, which Labonté argued was too late.

Michel told Quebec AM the difference in support from the regular classes to the specialized stream was huge for Thomas.

The Quebec superior court ruled that the board followed the law, and denied the family compensation.

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