It’s time we started asking some important questions following the decision made by ISD 742 and St. Cloud Technical High School regarding Tyler Hurd, a 23-year-old student at St. Cloud State. The reason why the school district made a decision about Mr. Hurd is because (a) he was doing his student teaching requirement at St. Cloud Technical HS and (b) he has a service dog to protect him if he has a seizure. Here’s what St. Cloud Times reporter Dave Aikens is reporting about the disagreement:

A St. Cloud State University student in a teacher-training program at Technical High School left the school in late April because he says he feared for the safety of his service dog.

The school district calls it a misunderstanding, and officials there say they hoped Tyler Hurd, a 23-year-old junior from Mahtomedi who aspires to teach special education, would continue his training in the district.

Hurd said a student threatened to kill his service dog named Emmitt. The black lab is trained to protect Hurd when he has seizures. The seizures, which can occur weekly, are from a childhood injury. The dog has a pouch on his side that assists those who stop to help Hurd.

Several questions leap to mind after reading that brief snippet. The most important question is why didn’t ISD 742 stand up for Tyler Hurd? The next most important question is whether the student who made the threat was disciplined. If it wasn’t, why wasn’t it? Was the school aware of the rights Tyler Hurd had under the Reasonable Accommodation section of the Americans With Disabilities Act? If it wasn’t, why wasn’t it?

I think some information as to the worthiness of ‘Seizure dogs’ is important if we want to put the threat into its proper context. Thanks to the good people at the Epilepsy Foundation, we have that type of information available. Here’s what they have to say about Seizure dogs:

They’re companions. They’re an alarm system. They’re helpers, protectors, and service providers. They may even be able to sense in advance when someone they’re close to is going to have an epileptic seizure. So-called seizure dogs can be all these things – and more.

America’s interest in seizure dogs began in the mid-1980’s, when a woman with epilepsy who was taking part in a Washington state prison project involving dogs discovered that one of the dogs seemed to know when she was going to have a seizure. The news media picked up the story, and the phrase “seizure dogs” was born. The Lifetime television drama, “Within These Walls,” is based in part on this experience.

Does this Tech High School student understand how much Tyler Hurd relies on this dog? Shouldn’t the school district have taken this into account before making a decision?

King frames this exactly right here:

So let’s take a look at this as a case of competing rights. On one side we have a student with a medical disability. One would think that the Americans with Disabilities Act would allow this student to participate to the fullest extent possible in pursuing his goals, which is to teach in special education. To do so, he is supposed to train in both elementary and secondary school settings. (The article notes that Hurd had no such problems with Somali students at his elementary school assignment.)

On the other side, we have a student at Tech HS whose faith considers dogs unclean and is asserting his right to education in an institution without dogs. This not only affects student teachers; any student with a sight or hearing disability may use a dog for assistance and might want to also attend Tech HS. Whose rights dominate?

I certainly think that the student should be disciplined but that isn’t all that I’m concerned with. It’s apparent that Tech needs to be asked about the way it handled the situation. Likewise, I think it’s important that we ask how well the school district handled the situation. I think it’s important that we emphatically state that Muslims’ religious rights trump everyone else’s rights, especially when a person’s safety is at stake. Finally, I think we need to find out why Somali students took to Mr. Hurd’s dog when he was at Talahi Community School but a Somali high school student issued a threat against the dog.

Frankly, there’s alot of answers that we still need to know before we sweep this under the rug.

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2 Responses to “When Rights Collide”

  • Tracy says:

    I think it’s important that we emphatically state that Muslims’ religious rights trump everyone else’s rights

    I hope I mis-understood that. The rights of Mr. Hurd trump some backward superstition about dogs.

  • One should also note that the “Holy” Koran actually does have use for dogs. IT does not deem them to be unclean…the Hadith (which were written over 200 years AFTER Mohammed’s death) is where that comes from. There are actually passages in the Koran that talk about how dogs are needed to protect the believers.

    LL

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