Student with PTSD pleads for service dog to be allowed on campus at New Jersey school

Toni Yates Image
Thursday, December 1, 2022
Student with PTSD pleads for service dog to be allowed at school
Freehold Regional School District has denied Justin Forman, 17, from bringing his psychiatrist prescribed service dog 'Dreyfus' onto campus. Toni Yates has the story.

MANALAPAN, New Jersey (WABC) -- A high school in New Jersey has caused some controversy after denying a student, for more than a year, from bringing his psychiatrist prescribed service dog onto campus.

Justin Forman, his parents and his service dog 'Dreyfus,' were blocked from a Freehold Regional School District board meeting about two weeks ago, a meeting that was open to the public.

They have been fighting to try to get his service dog allowed to go to school with him at Manalapan High School under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Eyewitness News was told the woman blocking the door was the Director of Special Education, and police were called.

The 17-year-old is on several medications and is under the care of a psychiatrist after suffering emotional and physical abuse.

"Justin was diagnosed with PTSD. He's actually spent time in patient for partial hospitalizations because he had thoughts to harm himself," Justin's mother Alina Forman said. "He's taken off his nails before. He's not doing it because he likes the pain but because he is anxious."

The family's synagogue raised the nearly $9,000 to purchase Dreyfus from an organization out west, that trains and offers service dogs.

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"I can tell him to sit in front of my if I need more space if there's a big crowd," Justin Forman said.

"His anxiety is at a point where he's staying up all night and crying and having nightmares or he doesn't sleep at all," Alina Forman said.

That's when Dreyfus jumps into bed to calm him down.

The school's district attorney responded to Eyewitness News' request for a statement in denying Dreyfus inside the school.

They quoted American with Disabilities Act which stated that "Emotional support, therapy, comfort, or companion animals are not considered service animals."

"In this instance, as in prior instances, the district followed its process to evaluate the request for a service animal accommodation," said Mark Toscano of Freehold Regional School District.

But where anxiety attacks are concerned, the ADA's website also says "If the dog has been trained to sense that an anxiety attack is about to happen and can take a specific action to help avoid the attack or lessen its impact, that would qualify as a service animal."

Right now, Justin Forman can't tolerate a school day without Dreyfus.

"The last time I was at school was probably around three or four weeks ago," he said.


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