Deafblind teenager's guide dog barred from lunch hall

Deafblind teenager's guide dog barred from lunch hall

John Balson

Deafblind teenager's guide dog barred from lunch hall

A deafblind teenager struggling to cope with her condition has been left on the verge of a nervous breakdown after teachers barred her from the lunch hall because a pupil is allergic to her guide dog.

Molly Watt, 17, of Oldacres, Maidenhead, withdrew from Mary Hare School for the Deaf six weeks ago complaining of depression after being isolated from friends for hours each week.

Her black Labrador-retriever Unis is banned from the dining hall and so Molly has to have lunch on her own, said her mum Jane, 46.

"Not only is she having to deal with coping with the reasons for needing the dog but she is having to be sat in a room by herself when she should be in the lunch hall socialising with her mates," she said.

She added: "Our main concern is her well-being and education and she doesn't deserve what is happening to her.

"They are totally ignoring Molly's needs as a human being."

She said Molly - who suffers from Usher Syndrome, a rare condition which meant she was born deaf but has also been slowly losing her sight and is nearly blind - has been told by her GP that she could not return until the situation changes because of the stress it is causing her.

A male pupil is reported to have a serious allergy which could result in a fatal anaphylactic shock if he was to come into contact with the dog but Jane said no-one had presented any up-to-date medical evidence to support this.

Molly, who was named Young Deafblind Person of the Year 2010 by deafblind charity Sense and nominated to carry the Olympic flame, wants a compromise where she could have half of the week in the hall. Jane said this had been dismissed.

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

Tony Shaw, principal of Mary Hare, in Newbury, said both he and the school had been misrepresented and that the only way he could truly defend himself would mean having to breach the confidentiality of both pupils.

"Everybody involved, including all the outside bodies we have engaged with, wish the situation could be different," he said.

"But at the moment none of them [the organisations] have said we have failed to unearth an obvious alternative."

He added: "It is heartbreaking for them and it is heartbreaking for us but Mary Hare has not been the arbiter of this situation.

"We have a duty of care to both pupils."

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