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East Meadow Bars Boy's Service Dog Despite Order

March 13, 2008
By Carl Macgowan


John Cave with SimbaDespite a state order in his favor, a hearing-impaired Westbury teenager was barred Tuesday morning from bringing his service dog to school.

John Cave, 15, his mother, his twin sister and a family attorney were met at the entrance of W. Tresper Clarke High Scool in East Meadow by principal Timothy Voels, who refused to allow the dog inside the school. The Caves and attorney Paul Margiotta then left, and John Cave did not return to school.

"I don't think they know what they're doing," John Cave said of school district officials, who have said the dog, Simba, poses a safety threat to other students. "I think they're going to be in big trouble with the state."

The incident was the latest salvo in a year-long battle between the Cave family and the East Meadow School District over John Cave's desire to bring Simba to class.

The Caves on Monday received the support of the state Division of Human Rights, which ruled that the school district's policy discriminates against disabled students. Human Rights Commissioner Kumiki Gibson said in a 24-page decision that the district was in violation of two sections of state human rights law.

East Meadow Superintendent of Schools Leon Campo said Monday the district would appeal the decision.

The confrontation on Tuesday morning lasted less than a minute as reporters watched from a distance. Margiotta said Voels, who was accompanied by a sign language interpreter, told the family that the district would not abide by the state's ruling.

"They said the commissioner's decision is not enforceable without a court order," Margiotta said. "This school is out of control." He said he will seek a court order to force the school to admit Simba when the district files its appeal.

With Simba lying at his feet, John Cave said he was nervous before going to school Tuesday morning.

"I didn't get enough sleep last night, so I'm going to go home and rest," he said.