Family says Freehold Regional School District won’t allow son’s PTSD service dog in class
A New Jersey high school student who wants to return to class is facing a battle with the school district. Justin Forman, 17, says that Freehold Regional School District won’t allow him to bring his service dog into the school.
Justin and his parents were denied entry into a school board meeting last week when they tried to bring the dog to the meeting. Forman was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder due to long-lasting effects from emotional and physical abuse. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, PTSD is a qualifying condition that could allow him the use of a service dog.
"It's just like a normal panic attack. It can be random. It could be triggered from something like completely unrelated to what you might have PTSD from,” Justin says.
The family purchased the service dog Dreyfus in 2021. They got it from a specialized facility in Washington state.
“[My son] will take the knuckles and kneed the pressure in his mouth and what Dreyfus does is he swats his hand. He no longer lets my son hurt himself,” says mother Alisa Forman.
The Formans say the district sees Dreyfus as a pet.
Dr. Jessica Howland, director of special services for the school district, said in email correspondence to the family, "A service dog is not one that provides comfort by its mere presence; nor does a service dog require commands to perform its task. If Justin requires a weighted blanket, those can be provided. If Justin requires prompting to take his fingers out of his mouth, the teacher or therapist working with Justin can provide that prompting."
“I think I'm being discriminated against that they won't let me bring him, even though he is legally allowed to be there, and he needs to be there,” says Justin.
The Freehold Regional High School District attorney said in a statement, "There is a process that is followed and that process is in accordance with state laws and federal guidelines and the matter is presently in litigation."
Justin remains out of school because of his PTSD. The next meeting scheduled between the Forman family and the district is on Nov. 29.
The school district tells News 12 that it has allowed service animals in classrooms in the past and will continue to follow all laws associated with the American with Disabilities Act.