Dave Aeikens, St. Cloud (Minnesota) Times, May 12, 2008
A St. Cloud State University student in a teacher-training program at Technical High School left the school in late April because he says he feared for the safety of his service dog.
The school district calls it a misunderstanding, and officials there say they hoped Tyler Hurd, a 23-year-old junior from Mahtomedi who aspires to teach special education, would continue his training in the district.
Hurd said a student threatened to kill his service dog named Emmitt. The black lab is trained to protect Hurd when he has seizures.
The threat came from a Somali student who is Muslim, according to Hurd, St. Cloud State and school district officials.
The Muslim faith, which is the dominant faith of Somali immigrants, forbids the touching of dogs.
Hurd trained at Talahi Community School and Tech. He said his experience at Talahi was good. The Somali students there warmed to the dog and eventually petted him using paper to keep their hands off his fur, Hurd said.
Things didn’t go as well at Tech, Hurd said. Students there taunted his dog, and he finally felt he had to leave after he was told a student made a threat. Hurd met with Lockhart but said he did not feel comfortable continuing.
Steffens [Kate Steffens, dean of the college of education at St. Cloud State] said it is important to respect different cultures and the rights of disabled students.
“I think this is part of the growth process when we become more diverse,” Steffens said.