Courtesy of Melissa Nann Burke/Twitter
Ehlena Fry is a 13-year-old girl with cerebral palsy based in Michigan. Due to the physical difficulties of the neurological disease, Ehlena’s pediatrician prescribed her a service dog. Wonder the Goldendoodle was trained to help Ehlena balance, pick things up, open and close doors, and perform other everyday tasks. So back in 2009, when her elementary school refused to let Wonder in class, Ehlena was devastated.
Although the family decided to relocate to a school district that was service dog-friendly, they still worked with the ACLU to file a federal lawsuit under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) which protects bringing service dogs into public institutions.
And last week, the Supreme Court sided with Ehlena and Wonder, ruling that the family can sue the school district for emotional damages of depriving Ehlena her independence—from the classroom to the restroom—effectively circumventing the long and often difficult administrative appeals process.
The ruling is not just a victory for Ehlena but children with disabilities everywhere. Michael J. Steinberg, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan spoke about the case: “Ehlena Fry and her family are at the U.S. Supreme Court so that other kids with disabilities won’t have to experience the humiliation and discrimination Ehlena experienced in kindergarten. It is not only illegal, but it is cruel to make a student choose between her education and her independence.”
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