Friday, April 22, 2011

Helping Veren, and recognizing D-11

Posted By on Fri, Apr 22, 2011 at 12:28 PM

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A number of our readers have asked how they could donate money to help buy Veren Betzen a new service dog. Veren (pictured right) is the young man whose struggles with Colorado Springs School District 11 we covered last month. He lost his service dog, Comet, to an aggressive cancer earlier this year.

We spoke with Verlene, Veren's mom, about this, and she said that the easiest way to donate money would be through Canine Companions for Independence. She says you can make a donation in Veren and Comet's names.

Since second grade, Veren, who has cerebral palsy quadriplegia, had brought Comet to D-11 schools with him. Comet opened and closed doors for Veren, carried his books, and did much more. Until high school, there were no complaints from teachers or administration about Comet.

But once Veren enrolled at Doherty High School, he and Verlene were met with an administration intractably opposed to the dog's presence. Comet was banned from the school, and despite Verlene's every effort, the administration wouldn't budge.

So Verlene went to the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights and filed a complaint. And she won.

OCR set down a number of conditions that the district would have to meet in order to come into compliance with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Yesterday, Verlene sent us a copy of the letter, dated April 8, 2011 from OCR. In it, OCR outlines the terms of agreement that the agency and D-11 entered into, and also lays out how the district has indeed reached compliance.

"I'm surprised that D-11 took care of things so quickly," says Verlene, "but they got it all done."

You can read the letter here.

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