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Cypress family fights for autism service dogs in schools

June 16, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A family in Cypress is behind a landmark court decision, allowing kids with autism to bring their service dogs to school.

Caleb Ciriacks is literally joined at the hip to his golden retriever service dog Eddy. Eddy is trained to help the 7-year-old boy who has severe autism and can communicate through a device, but cannot speak.

"When he's tethered to Eddy he's more calm," said mother Milka Ciriacks. "He can focus a little bit better."

With Eddy nearby, Caleb Ciriacks' parents say he has fewer tantrums. When he tries to wander off, Eddy stays put.

"I know Caleb is safe," said Milka Ciriacks. "Caleb is not going to run into traffic."

The two were inseparable, until Caleb Ciriacks tried to bring him to school.

"They didn't believe that he was a service dog," said Milka Ciriacks. "They didn't believe that autistic kids needed service dogs."

The family took the Cypress School District to court, arguing the district must accommodate Caleb Ciriacks' service dog under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

This week a federal judge agreed. It is being called a landmark decision.

"This family, by standing up for their son, has also stood up for all autistic children in the United States," said the Ciriacks' attorney John Gibson. "And made it clear that these children have the right under the law to bring their service dogs with them to school."

An attorney for the school district said that they do not comment on pending litigation. So far there's just one thing standing in way of Caleb Ciriacks bringing Eddy to school- the family has to post a $50,000 bond.

That money is required just in case, to compensate the district if additional staff resources are needed. Attorneys for the Ciriacks' hope to get the bond reduced, saying the dog needs little attention and doesn't pose a risk.

The family is hoping Caleb Ciriacks will have Eddy by his side when he starts summer school in July.


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