Settlement reached in Sherrard service dog case

Cala Smoldt

The fight is over between the Sherrard school district and the McGuire family. The school board reached a settlement  Aug. 25 in connection with their daughter's service dog after ongoing legal proceedings. The settlement is for $95,587.63, 75 percent of that being attorney’s fees.

Board President Leslie Anderson said in a statement, “The settlement is not an admission of guilt by the school district.”

The decision comes more than a year after Colin and Brandi McGuire filed a lawsuit against the school district after their second grade daughter’s service dog, Jasper, was barred from the school. The civil suit was filed June 25, 2014, in U.S. District Court in Rock Island. The child's rights were also pursued under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, according to a copy of the lawsuit.

In December 2014, the state Board of Education ruled in favor of the McGuires, approving their decision to remove their daughter, enrolling her in Jordan Catholic School, and calling the Sherrard school a “hostile environment” for Kellsey. With that decision the Sherrard district was ordered to pay two years tuition for the girl to attend Jordan Catholic, as well as transportation costs to the Rock Island school. The McGuires then asked the district to pay attorney fees totaling $73,500. Sherrard appealed the decision and was sued by the family.

With the agreement, $73,500 will go to attorney fees, $6,820.63 for tuition and mileage for Kellsey to attend Jordan Catholic, with the remaining $15,267 for other alleged damages, according to a statement read by Anderson. She said, “The district’s position remains unchanged. It has always been committed to providing education and access to all students regardless of need. … This is an economic decision. … The district is hopeful that all parties will move forward in a positive direction.”

In a press release, Brandi McGuire said, “This entire effort has not been solely for our own child’s benefit but for the next child with a disability, the next person being denied their rights, and the next person bullied by the government they finance. The need for parents to advocate for their children is so very important and the importance of ensuring access to education for all students cannot be understated. No money from this settlement will benefit Colin or Brandi McGuire. We will set up a trust account for our daughter so that she continues to get the very best education that she deserves in a school that was willing to meet her needs.

"Through all of this we have found a profound strength in our community. It has been that strength and support that has allowed us to continue on this crusade.”