Supreme Court Asked To Weigh In On Service Dog Case
A court case pitting a girl with cerebral palsy against school officials who tried to deny her access to her service dog may be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The family of Ehlena Fry is asking the high court to weigh in on a case they brought against the Napoleon School District and the Jackson County Intermediate School District in Jackson County, Mich. after school officials said Fry could not be accompanied to class by her service dog, Wonder.
According to court documents, Fry’s family obtained Wonder in 2009 to help the then-5-year-old with various tasks including balance, retrieving dropped items, opening and closing doors and turning on lights. But, school officials would not allow Wonder to accompany Fry.
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When the American Civil Liberties Union intervened on Fry’s behalf, the school did allow Wonder to attend in a limited fashion, but subsequently barred the dog again. At that point, Fry’s parents decided to home-school her.
In May 2012, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights determined that the school district had violated Fry’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Nonetheless, Fry’s parents said they remained concerned about how welcoming the school would be to their daughter with her dog and they elected to enroll her in another school district.
The Frys sued in December 2012, alleging that denying the dog violated their daughter’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This month, the family petitioned the Supreme Court after a lower court dismissed the case because they did not first seek an administrative hearing on the matter under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
“To force a child to choose between her independence and her education is not only illegal, it is heartless,” said Michael Steinberg, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, which is representing Fry’s family in the case. “It’s time for the Supreme Court to settle a dispute among the lower courts and give Ehlena Fry her day in court.”
Tim Mullins, an attorney for the Napoleon district, told the Associated Press that he is doubtful the Supreme Court will take up the case.