Last week, the New Jersey Senate unanimously approved a bill that would allow service animals on school buses. The bill, which was also unanimously passed by the State Assembly last November, now awaits Gov. Chris Christie’s signature.
Federal law under the Americans with Disabilities Act states that service animals must be allowed to accompany a person with disabilities anywhere the public is “normally allowed to go.” State law says that a student with disabilities must be allowed to bring service animals into “school buildings, including the classroom, and on school grounds,” which one could opine includes school buses
Assembly Bill 3690 seeks to add to the current law it and ensure the school bus is explicitly included.
“Whether on the bus or in the classroom, these service animals are a fundamental resource for many children with disabilities,” said Sen. Teresa Ruiz, one of the bill’s sponsors. “Updating our laws to permit these aids on school buses is crucial to getting students to the building each day safely and ensuring a productive and healthy learning environment.”
Last June, a school district in New Jersey had to pay $10,000 to the family of a student with special needs after an investigation by the U.S Department of Justice determined the district prevented the child from bringing a service dog with to school or school-related activities. This included not allowing the student to bring the dog on a school bus for a field trip.
“The use of service animals for students with disabilities is an important component to their everyday lives,” said Sen. Bob Gordon, another sponsor of the bill. “This bill would allow children easier access to their service companions, facilitating and enhancing their learning experience alongside their peers.”
To learn more about service animals and students with special needs, visit our resources page.