Service Dog Lawsuit Cost Small Illinois School District $95K To Settle

Kellsey and Jasper at Sherrard school, photo provided by McGuire family

Kellsey and Jasper at Sherrard school, photo provided by McGuire family

At Tuesday nights school board meeting the Sherrard school board(in Western Illinois) voted to settle a lawsuit brought by the McGuire family against the district over the treatment the McGuire’s daughter Kellsey and her service dog Jasper received.  A state administrative hearing officer had previously ruled that the district had created a hostile environment for Kellsey, who has epilepsy , and Jasper.

The Sherrard school district has agreed to pay $95,587 to the McGuires to settle their claims against the district, over $75,000 of that will immediately go to pay for lawyers and legal fees, the McGuire’s say that the rest of the funds will be set up to create an education trust fund for Kellsey.

As per the hearing officers ruling and state law the Sherrard school district will have to continue to pay for Kellsey’s private education at Jordan Catholic.

In a press statement the McGuire family Tuesday night said, “As a family we followed the proper channels and the system failed us. We went to the principal first, met with the superintendent, had mediation meetings and finally asked our school board time and time again to do the right and just thing not only for our daughter but for the residents in the Sherrard school district. We then decided to take a stand and fight back. This entire effort has not been solely for our own child’s benefit but for the next child with a disability, the next person being denied their rights, and the next person bullied by the government they finance. The need for parents to advocate for their children is so very important and the importance of ensuring access to education for all students cannot be understated. No money from this settlement will benefit Colin or Brandi McGuire. We will set up a trust account for our daughter so that she continues to get the very best education that she deserves in a school that was willing to meet her needs.”

Jordan Catholic yearbook with Kellsey and Jasper

Jordan Catholic yearbook with Kellsey and Jasper

The McGuire’s say that since Kellsey and Jasper left the Sherrard school district they have both been happy and thriving at their new school.

Best estimates are that the Sherrard school district spent in excess of $130,000 fighting the McGuire’s in court in addition to the $95,000 from the settlement and the tuition for Kellsey that Sherrard will have to pay; this has been one very expensive legal fight over a service dog and the bad attitudes of some adults involved. And this is only one of several lawsuits pending against the Sherrard school district and Superintendent Dr. Sam Light.

A big reason for the settlement happening now is due to the fact that Sherrard superintendent Dr. Sam Light is leaving at the end of August to take the Superintendents position in Lincoln County Georgia.  It was from all media reports at the time that it was solely  Dr. Light’s insistence on appealing the hearing officers ruling that continued to drag out this case.  He was attempting to argue that state law on this matter didn’t say what it said, namely that the school district had to pay for the McGuire’s legal bills.

Because of this whole episode the McGuire’s are working with their state Sen. Neil Anderson(R-Moline) on SB2136 that would seek to prevent other school districts from doing what Sherrard did.

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