Required: The Wisdom Of Solomon

A deaf and blind teenager is refusing to go to school after teachers banned her guide dog from the dining hall.

Molly Watt, 17, says she was left to eat lunch alone in a separate room because another pupil who uses the canteen is allergic to the dog.

So what we have here is a clash of disabilities. It should be easy to resolve, no, given that both parties are aware of the issues and already sympathetic to reasonable adjustment?

Ah. I see. No:

Her mother Jane, 46, said Molly is ‘besotted’ with her dog and becomes ‘distressed’ when her companion is not by her side.

Well, I’m sure the other child would become ‘distressed’ by going into anaphylactic shock…

‘She should be able to socialise with friends at lunchtime like everybody else.

‘She was shaking, having panic attacks and was unable to sleep after being asked to leave Unis in a sideroom. Her doctor has signed her off sick.

My main concern is Molly’s well-being and education. She doesn’t deserve what is happening to her.’

Nor does the other kid. Should he be isolated instead?

‘The alternative arrangements the school has put in place are not good enough.’

Well, do tell us what would be, then? Or are you too busy going to the papers?

The school, to their credit, aren’t about to take this lying down:

‘Mary Hare has an equal duty of care to both students and a duty to ensure that any adjustments affecting the use of a guide dog are reasonable and proportionate.‘The solution has involved re-timetabling and changes of class locations to avoid use of the same rooms and two restrictions on the movements of the guide dog.

‘These restrictions involve the hall used for weekly assembly and the main dining hall.

‘The expert medical advice has been that if the dog enters either room, the other pupil cannot use them.’

So, just what are they supposed to do? The irresistible force has met the immovable object, and one side will have to give ground to the other.

I expect the other kid’s parents are equally protective of their child’s rights not to be endangered. That they haven’t rushed to print (yet) makes me think a lot better of them…

A petition called Justice 4 Deafblind guide-dog Owner Molly Watt has been signed by more than a thousand people, including former alumni.

Oh, FFS! And here’s BookFace and Twatter, pouring oil on the fire, just for good measure!

And I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that there’s a hierarchy of disabilities, and infighting and disagreement therein, but it does..

18 comments for “Required: The Wisdom Of Solomon

  1. December 15, 2011 at 8:39 am

    The expert medical advice has been that if the dog enters either room, the other pupil cannot use them.’

    The school is going to lose on this one, same as any large public space would. I don’t believe they got ‘medical advice’ for one single moment. Show me the medic. Somebody in the insurance office, maybe, has taken fright. They’ve got the proportions wrong, as a moment’s thought would show. They can request that the children stay at separate ends of the hall and that the kid with the alllergy avoids the dog, but the idea that someone with an allergy can exclude others – and this is the logical implication – from large swathes of space is just not going to work.

    The reason I know this is that there is nothing whatever exceptional about allergies to dogs. I suspect a lot of cab drivers are about to develop them, and they might have an argument in a small space which they are obliged to share. It should be their minicab, their rules. But across a school or classroom or theatre or museum or cafe or library or shop – not a hope in hell of winning that argument.

    An allergy to dogs does not restrict itself to when the dog is present; any fabric such as a coat or other person who has recently handled a dog will be carrying enough material to trigger the reaction. Guess how I know.

    It follows that a child whose allergies are to a widespread common substance is the one who has to go in to quarantine if that allergy is life-threatening because there are dog and cat owners all over the place. It is simply impossible to live without finding yourself near a dog or dog owner. Is the school proposing to steam-clean every child and teacher and support worker every morning in case they accidentally are carrying allergenic material? Thought not.

    Actually, I’m utterly amazed at the action of the head at first blush. I dunno what is really going on here but I’ll lay money that it’s not really about dogs or allergies. Possibly about the nuisance of guide dogs and how much more convenient it would be if she only had the white cane, but who knows. If only the Mail would get the whole story for once, then we might know what the real story is.

    • December 15, 2011 at 8:50 am

      Think you might just have it on this one, WoaR, especially about not seeking medical advice.

    • December 15, 2011 at 9:25 am

      Yes, I agree. Also, pet allergies tend on the whole to be fairly minor rather than life threatening.

    • john in cheshire
      December 15, 2011 at 6:36 pm

      Is it a coincidence that muslims don’t like dogs. Or am I reading things into this report that don’t exist. Unfortunately, muslims are such a nuisance in our country these days, I automatically associate anything that goes against common decency with their so-called religion of peace.

    • December 16, 2011 at 1:49 am

      “It should be their minicab, their rules”. It is not, it is a council licenced Public Service Vehicle and cabbies are obliged to carry assistance dogs unless they themselves have an allergy (disability) in which case they must aquire a medical exemption certificate and carry it at all times.

      I’d say the dog will win, allergies symptoms can be cured, short-term, with standard medication, blindness cannot.

  2. stab11
    December 15, 2011 at 9:10 am

    My Mother in Law worked as a dinner lady until she retired a few years ago and towards then end of her time she was dealing with these “allergies” all the time.

    In one case the staff were all informed that little Jimmy is allergic to peanuts and to keep an eye out for him being given them by the other children. Fair enough but next little Jimmy’s (who has survived 8 years with this allergy) parents want a ban on anyone eating peanuts at his lunch table. The week after there was a ban on any child eating peanuts in the lunch room and just on the safe side a week later peanuts were banned from the school even ones in unopened packets !

    According to the Mother in Law the driving force behind the bans were Jimmy’s pushy parents and a Headmistress who was petrified of anything happening on her watch that might blight her career so did everything on the safe side.

    • December 15, 2011 at 9:31 am

      Whereas, in fact, managing little Jimmy’s allergy is the responsibility of the parents. While it’s fine to point out that he must not have any food containing nuts and the school follows that instruction, its duty of care is then done. The rest is the kind of irrational fear of litigation that needs to be firmly stamped out. The answer to Little Jimmy’s parents when they went beyond “don’t feed him nuts” should have been a very firm “no” and keep saying “no” until they either got the message or took little Jimmy somewhere else.

      • December 15, 2011 at 12:09 pm

        Trouble being, it’s not an irrational fear of litigation. It’s rational because even if you win the case, it can still put years of worry through your life, even if the court eventually tells the claimant to take a hike. The process itself is an abuse and a deterrence.

        The parents who hired the bouncy castle were cleared of liability, eventually, but not a single day of being worried out of their lives for three years can make up for that, including the shock of losing the first case.

        “…decision was quickly overturned by the Court of Appeal in July this year, when it ruled that there had been no need to constantly supervise the bouncy castle, prevent youngsters doing somersaults and flips, or prevent children of different sizes using the bouncy castle at the same time.

        The court also decided that Mr and Mrs Perry were not at fault and it was a tragic accident.”

        Worse, in a way, is that unless you know what you are googling, the explanations that the case was overturned are down the rankings. An unwary person would think the first ruling still stood. Despite the pious intonation of the link below, the com-pen-say-shun culture is going along very nicely.

        • December 17, 2011 at 6:31 am

          It really does show no signs of slowing down, sadly.

    • Andrew Duffin
      December 15, 2011 at 10:49 am

      “towards the end of her time she was dealing with these “allergies””

      Towards the end of her time.

      So what happened towards the beginning of her time, then?

      I guess they all just got on with life.

      I don’t remember anyone, not one single child, during my years at school, who had to be segregated or receive special treatment because of allergies. Not one.

      What the hell is wrong with people? Is it the compensation culture? Is it that they don’t ever go outdoors? Seriously, what?

      • ivan
        December 16, 2011 at 10:43 am

        It’s very simple, in the dim and distant past kids were allowed to get dirty, play with animals etc. and so build up a robust immune system. Now we live in a culture where the home and local environment has to be squeaky clean and germ free, where there is nothing to build up the immune system. Hence we see more allergies, colds and so on.

        Is there an answer to it? Maybe – but it will require a culture change.

  3. December 15, 2011 at 9:13 am

    Don’t need Solomon’s wisdom when property rights are a simple guide. School property, school gets to choose the rules, change them as it sees fit and decide which kid to side with if there’s a clash like this. That’s it.

    Actually my sympathies are with Molly because, as WoaR points out, if the other kid’s allergy is so über-sensitive that a dog on the other side of a big room might kill him then then he probably needs to be getting his education from inside a clean room anyway. This is a school for deaf children, so not only will there be kids with pet dogs at home but also others with assistance dogs. And they’re all going to be coming in to school with dog hairs on their clothing and dropping them all over the school as they wander around the buildings. There’s probably enough fur in odd corners to make another dog out of. On the other hand if its something that stays on or near the dog, like saliva perhaps, then presuming it’s not one of the rare Indonesian Spitting Hounds he’ll be fine as long as he keeps his distance.

    But here’s the thing with property rights. It doesn’t guarantee that the decision will be wise or even fair or logical, it just says the person who gets to make that decision is the one who owns the property. When we overrule that in favour of letting the most sympathetic person make the decision instead we damage the idea of ownership and private property, just as we’ve done with smoking bans. I think the school’s made the wrong decision, but they’ve got the right to do that.

  4. December 15, 2011 at 9:37 am

    I covered this one at my place and came up with the same conclusions as Julia.

    It is a bit of a strech to say they can’t sit at opposite ends of the room but the article does say that the kid is in danger if he comes in contact with the dog.

    I think that both parties need to grow a set here. Ones allergies are so bad they are life threatening and the other has ‘panic attacks’ when separated from her dog? Yeah right.

    Like Julia said at the top of the post, this clash of disabilities should be easy to resolve, but as the school has had to choose, thier choice seems to be the correct one. The blind girl is only away from her dog for two hours a week.

    Considering her reaction and the reaction of her mother and followers, she doesn’t really endear herself to me.

  5. December 15, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    I must admit when I first started reading this story, my first thought was

    “I bet it’s one of those ‘guide dog allergies’ that seems to affect a disproportionate amount of cab drivers and cafe owners” [normally caused by a sudden onset of ‘being taken to court’]

    but it appears not to be the case here (possibly)

    • December 17, 2011 at 6:31 am

      It’s a similar case of entitlement though.

  6. Tattyfalarr
    December 16, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    “‘She was shaking, having panic attacks and was unable to sleep after being asked to leave Unis in a sideroom. ”

    If this is even half-true then such an extreme reaction is either a full-blown tantrum worthy of a fricking two year old OR she has serious mental/attachment issues that need appropriate treatment, fast. 🙄

    • December 17, 2011 at 6:30 am

      Everything is exaggerated for the cameras…

      • December 17, 2011 at 2:50 pm

        Except that which is not and is eventually exaggerated by the media instead.

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