Supreme Court Seeks Input On Special Education Matter
The U.S. Supreme Court is asking the Obama administration to weigh in as it considers whether to take up a case brought by the family of a girl with cerebral palsy who sought to bring her service dog to school.
The family of Ehlena Fry petitioned the Supreme Court to take their case last fall. Rather than accept or decline the case outright, however, the high court this week asked the U.S. solicitor general to provide the federal government’s viewpoint before the court decides whether to hear the matter.
At issue is whether families must exhaust their options under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in special education disputes with schools before pursuing legal options under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Lower courts have issued conflicting opinions on this point and the distinction is significant since the ADA allows individuals to seek damages, but the IDEA does not.
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The Frys sued the Napoleon School District and the Jackson County Intermediate School District in Jackson County, Mich. in 2012 alleging violations of the ADA after school officials declined to allow their daughter to be accompanied by her service dog, Wonder.
The Goldendoodle, which the family acquired in 2009, was specially-trained to help the then-5-year-old with balance, opening and closing doors, retrieving dropped items and turning on lights, among other tasks.
A lower court dismissed the Frys’ case because they did not first pursue an administrative hearing on the matter under the IDEA, prompting the family to petition the Supreme Court.