You may have seen photos of a young girl and her goldendoodle Wonder on the steps of the Supreme Court on social media, so who is she and why is she smiling?
That would be Ehlena Fry, a 13-year-old girl with cerebral palsy. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court unanimously sided with Fry, which may allow her to sue her local school board for damages for the emotional distress she said she suffered by being denied the assistance of her service dog. The ACLU represented the Frys.
“The school district had decided that Wonder wasn’t necessary,” Stacy Fry, Ehlena’s mother, told Yahoo News. “They were providing an aide to do all the tasks that they thought Wonder could do for her, but Wonder was so much more than just somebody who could open doors. He was her chance at independence.”
Wonder can do tasks for Ehlena, such as opening and closing doors as well as allowing for seamless transfers from her walker to a toilet seat. Her school gave Wonder a 30-day trial but ultimately returned to the no-dog policy. Stacy told NPR that the trial was filled with “animosity,” and said that at one point Ehlena was asked to demonstrate Wonder’s ability to perform a toilet transfer in front of adults.
“[Wonder] allowed her to do the tasks that most of us take for granted,” said Stacy. “To say that a human aide can do that for her is impossible.”
Ehlena was homeschooled for a brief period before finding a new public school that would allow her to use Wonder in class. When asked about the reception she received from her classmates on Thursday, Ehlena told Yahoo they said “congratulations.”
The road to the Supreme Court was a long one, as the Frys lost their case in a lower court. But Stacy says her decision to pursue the case was to stand “up for our daughter’s rights and the rights of all the children.”
“We wanted to show other parents that we have a voice and that the [Amercians with Disabilities Act] is there to protect our children,” said Stacy. “[The decision] is an amazing statement in the fact that there are these laws in place to protect our children, and as parents we have a voice and we can help our children and not be bullied.”
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