Substitute teacher told he can't bring service dog to school

TEXAS CITY (KTRK) -- Service dogs are more common in public places, businesses and institutions, as more service personnel are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Army veteran Stanley Solis of Texas City is among them. He says he has diabetes, a back injury and PTSD. He also has Flops, the dog he raised from a pup, who's now in training to be his service dog.

Today, he was headed to Texas City High School, as a substitute teacher. He said he told the district today that he would be bringing his service dog. He was met in the parking lot, he said, and told he couldn't bring Flops.

Flops is a pit bull, but the Americans With Disabilities Act doesn't ban any breed from being a service animal. It requires that the animal be trained to deal with a disability.

Solis said a district employee who oversees substitute teachers told him he needed to provide documentation of why the dog was necessary.

"I don't have an issue with that," he said, but when he said 'even if you did, I wouldn't let you bring that dog, a pit bull, into the school."

It surprised one parent of a student at the school. "They're trained to be service dogs, and they're calm and don't bother people. I work in the restaurant industry," said Francine Clifford. "I know the law on service dogs and they're allowed anywhere in the state. For the school not to allow him to come in here, they should know the law."

Solis left, with Flops, and headed to the VA to see a counselor. "That's how much this upset me," he said. "I know the law. I felt humiliated."

The school district looked into the incident. Melissa Tortorici, the spokesperson for TCISD said, "people weren't' familiar with what to do about it, and the breed caused some concern, but we know the breed really isn't an issue."

The district, she said, has never had a case of a service animal in its schools before. "We just needed to be able to accommodate the dog, and any students who might have animal allergies or even fear of dogs," she said.

Calling it a learning experience, she offered an apology to Solis, and said he will be paid for work today. "He showed up and was sent home, through no fault of his own," Tortorici said. She added he remains as a substitute in good standing with the district. He has been on the substitute teaching roster for a year, but had never brought Flops to a campus before today.

When told that he'll be paid for the day and is welcome back, Solis said he won't be returning. This afternoon, he filed a complaint at the Texas City Police Department, accusing the district of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. "I know the law," he said. "I feel if I go back, I'll be under severe scrutiny and I won't be comfortable."

Solis said he wants to continue teaching, but somewhere else. "I still feel if I go back, I'll be under severe scrutiny and I won't be comfortable."

He's also studying to become a social worker, "so I can help other people like myself," he said.
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