There’s a new member of the student body this year at Bethel Park high school.
Her name is Faith and she’s bound to get lots of attention.
Faith is a yellow lab and is the service dog for ninth grader, Melissa Szabo.
Melissa has a seizure disorder and when she has a seizure, Faith will alert a teacher.
“She's an extra level of security safety, another set of eyes watching Melissa,” explained her mother Karen.
Across western Pennsylvania, school districts have been trying to balance the request for service animals along with protecting the safety and health of other students.
In Bethel Park, they sent letters to parents letting them know about Faith.
Channel 11’s Cara Sapida learned that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires schools to allow for service dogs for students who need them for their independence.
In Bethel Park, administrators worked with parents of students who fear dogs or have dog allergies.
“We heard from one or two parents, mostly an allergy issue, worried their student may be allergic to the dog,” said Vicki Flotta, the public relations director for the school district.
Flotta knows many students will be excited over Faith, but she is not a new mascot.
Faith will be focused and on the job.
“We wanted parents to talk to their children. This dog is not a pet. It's a working animal. When it's wearing a vest, you do not pet it,” she said.
The Szabos say they're sure Faith will be a welcome member of the Bethel Park student body.
“She just fits into family like she's been there all along,” said Karen Szabo.
Right now Faith only helps after a seizure begins but trainers say in time she may be able to predict seizures before they come on, helping to get Melissa to safety quickly.
Bethel Park has new member of student body – Faith, the service dog
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