Boy with cerebral palsy, service dog starts school

Broward County Public Schools originally said family needed liability insurance for dog

SUNRISE, Fla. - Anthony Marshante, a 5-year-old with cerebral palsy, arrived for his first day of kindergarten Monday with his service dog that was originally denied to him by the Broward County Public Schools district.

The boy's mother, Monica Alboniga, brought the pair to Nob Hill Elementary in Sunrise.

"I'm very nervous because it's the first day and I don't know when I'm going to the school what will happen. I am waiting," she said.

Marshante's service dog, Stevie, alerts people when the boy is having a seizure. The district originally told the family they needed liability insurance for the dog.

"The dog carries pertinent medical information. The dog needs to be near the person to help Anthony when he has a medical emergency," said Traci Dulniak, Stevie's trainer.

"He's very comfortable when he's with the dog," added Alboniga.

Over the weekend, district officials told the family that Stevie would be allowed in the classroom, but the service dog needed a handler who wasn't a district employee, said Alboniga.

Alboniga and Dulniak volunteered to be the handler, but neither could undergo a background check in time for Monday.

"We don't know how the teachers are going to react, we're not know how the kids are going to react, so this is all new to everybody," said Dulniak.

After taking her son to class, Alboniga left beaming.

"I'm very, very happy," she said.

"Stevie and Anthony are pioneers today," added Dulniak.

According to a spokeswoman for Broward County Public Schools district, insurance isn't required for a service animal to be approved. However, the service animal must:

  • Be properly vaccinated;
  • Be under the control of a handler who is not a school board employee. ┬áIf the handler is not the student, the handler must meet the requirements of the Jessica Lunsford Act (Level II Background Screening);
  • Be trained to perform a specific service for the student which cannot be accommodated in the education setting.

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