1. Religion & Spirituality
Send to a Friend via Email

Discuss in my forum

Austin Cline

Christian School Kicks Out Girl Over Service Dog

By December 3, 2012

Follow me on:

Anika Bjornson is a 5th grade girl in Tualatin, Oregon, whose juvenile diabetes is severe enough that she qualifies for a special service dog which tells here when her blood sugar is too high or too low. The dog basically helps keep her alive, but that's not good enough for Horizon Christian Elementary which kicked her out rather than let her bring the service dog with her.

Service Dog
Service Dog
Photo: Don Farrall/Getty

Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, no other school would be allowed to kick Bjornson out because her dog is "individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities." Because Horizon Christian Elementary is a Christian school, though, they can just ignore this law and do whatever they want.

So this is a case where Christians aren't required by law to do the right thing and as a consequence they do the exact opposite. They don't deny that Anika Bjornson needs the service dog or will be kept alive with the service dog; they just don't want the dog in the school. Their response would apply equally well if the dog were being used by anyone else, like a blind person.

Bjornson, who suffers from Type I diabetes, takes her 9-month-old lab, Bassie, with her everywhere she goes. Bassie is professionally trained to detect changes in blood sugar using scent and "paws" the 10 year old when her sugar is too high or too low.

That's how Bjornson knows to prick her finger and conduct a more detailed blood test.

"I would feel really hot and shaky, like I couldn't really balance myself," Bjornson said.

She and her mom, Debbie, recently asked her school permission to bring the service animal to class with her, thinking they were covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

But the school, Horizon Christian Elementary, said no.

Source: KATU

This is what happens when you give religious organizations a (largely) blank check to ignore general, neutral laws. They will put their own convenience and traditional practices ahead of the lives, safety, and equality of everyone else on the planet.

You can get a good sense of what Anika Bjornson has faced from conservatives and Christians in her community by reading the comments on the article, like this one:

Ummm.. why not teach your child responsibility to take care of themselves. Teach independence not dependency.

Thank GOD my children can rely on themselves!

Actually, service dogs are trained to provide people with greater independence, not to make them dependent. We are all dependent on various things around us but service dogs (and other service animals) allows a disabled person to be live more independently because they are not reliant on constant assistance and monitoring from other human beings.

I think this comment was written by a person with no idea what diabetes is like, no idea what service animals do, and absolutely no interest in becoming better educated or informed. They "thank God" that they already know all they need and have all they need and the rest of the world can just go to the devil.

American Christianity in a nutshell.

December 3, 2012 at 7:13 pm
(1) Karen says:

I find the fact that a service dog can do that is amazing. I gather that managing type I diabetes is no trivial matter, and this is a 10-year-old for fsm’s sake! I don’t even see any real inconvenience to the school; at 10 one can be relied upon to walk the dog and clean up any messes at recess. The damn fools probably think that if she just prayed hard enough to Jeezus, her diabetes would magically go away.

December 4, 2012 at 11:46 pm
(2) Victoria says:

Although I have no problem with a service dog, what did junvenile diabetics do like 45-50 years ago? I have only known one juvenile diabetic and we were in college. He would give himself a shot in the a.m. and one in the p. m.

December 6, 2012 at 12:55 pm
(3) Lola says:

First, at 9 months, the dog is a puppy. Reputable programs don’t send dogs out untul they are 18-24 months for several reasons: dogs go through distinct fear periods up until 18 months and ‘teenage airhead’ phase.

Many programs won’t wotk with elementary school age children because they are not capable of stewarding the dog (there is more to it than picking up after the animal… often one must proactively protect their dog from idiots who won’t take no for an answer); guide programs won’t place with anyone under 14/16.

Unfortunatly, there are some less than ethical programs out there charging outrageous fees and feeding unrealistic expectations (aka Lassie Syndrome).

December 7, 2012 at 5:31 pm
(4) David says:

Like Anika Bjornson, I am a diabetic, and I know and understand what I know she is feeling. Not able to feel extreme bloodsugars is frustrating, confidence destroying, and dangerous.
Without her service dog, I would think the school is opening itself to a big time law suit.
The vast majority of Christians are reasonable folks; but, the operators of this school are not being true to their faith, their God, or any of their teachings.
What are they afraid of?
Personally, I believe the conservative Christians of this nation are starting to think this way, and as such will start to demand people begin to pull their own weight or be put in the old style institutions.

May 2, 2013 at 7:03 pm
(5) stephanie says:

I have been diabetic for 47 years and unfortunatly have hypoglycemic unawareness. That means that I do not notice my bloodsugar dropping to dangerously low levels. I have recently started to train a puppy to be a diabetic alert dog. I figure it will take 1 1/2 to 2 years to fully complete the training. However he has signaled me twice already. I have been reasearching service dog laws and they should be allowed in all public places. The public is slow to come around sometimes but most people are understanding when they are told he is a service dog in training.
I hope it works out. It is a long road.

October 21, 2013 at 4:18 pm
(6) edwapa says:

so sorry to here about your disability but, uhm, it is inconvenient to our perfect little school. now let go of us and let God. — Nice…I hope she sues the faith out of ‘em.

Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.