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North Padre Island family claims school will not allow student's service animal

Garrison Mitchell
Posted at 7:53 AM, Sep 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-06 08:53:07-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A Coastal Bend family has obtained an attorney after they claim Seashore Middle Academy in North Padre Island has discriminated against their son.

Rebecca Mitchell says her 11 year old son, Garrison, suffers from a particular disability that causes major anxiety around others.

The entire Mitchell family moved to the area earlier this summer. Rebecca and her husband, Tim, wanted to send their two boys to Seashore Charter Academy. Her son Garrison would go to the middle school campus.

At the beginning of the school semester, Rebecca said the family took a tour at the school, met faculty and even introduced their service dog, Scooter, to the staff so they would be familiar with him before school started.

Rebecca said following the introduction with teachers, she met with Seashore Middle Academy Principal Dr. Christopher Daniels.

She mentioned she told Daniels of her son's need for the service dog. Rebecca said that Daniels advised he would have to check with members of the school board before approving.

"Even the teachers were receptive of Scooter and Garrison," Rebecca said. "They said they were more than happy to teach Garrison, even with a service animal. But Dr. Daniels did not give that same expression."

During the process of enrollment, Rebecca said she provided the school with all proper documentation of Garrison's need for a service animal, as well as Scooter's service animal certification, training and veterinary check ups.

Rebecca said the principal emailed her days later to tell her that Seashore would not be allowing Scooter into the school with Garrison. She added Daniels said Garrison was more than welcome, but Scooter had to stay home.

Furthermore, the Mitchell family didn't back down and continued sending proper documentation to the school to inform them of Garrison's condition and his need for Scooter, in order to properly and comfortably learn.

"They kept calling it an emotional support animal and that those aren't allowed in the classroom with students. I had to reiterate with Dr. Daniels that it is not an emotional support animal, it's a registered service dog," Rebecca said.

Despite her efforts to prove to Dr. Daniels that Garrison can't go anywhere without Scooter, she decided to send him to school on Aug. 17. However, shortly after school began, she got a call from her son.

"He calls me and tells me that the principal followed him as soon as he got into the school," Rebecca said. "He told Garrison to go to the office and to call his mom because the dog cannot be at the school. He said I had to come back and get Scooter."

Mrs. Mitchell said she believes these efforts have prohibited Garrison's learning abilities and his opportunity to push forward academically, most especially since the family just moved to the area.

Garrison added during his interview with KRIS 6 that Scooter is not only his friend, he helps with his anxiety and allows him to stay focused in school.

KRIS 6 reached out to the U.S. Department of Justice American Disability Division, U.S. Service Animal Registry and Seashore Middle Academy.

So far, mo response has been recieved from any of them.

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