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Jackson girl and ‘Wonder’ win in US Supreme Court disability decision

ACLU of Michigan
Ehlena Fry and her service dog, Wonder.

A girl and her dog, Wonder, are one step closer to victory in their lawsuit against her former school.

The U.S. Supreme Court said Wednesday 13-year-old Ehlena Fry can move forward with a lawsuit her family filed when officials would not let her use her goldendoodle as an aid during school.

Fry has cerebral palsy and has had Wonder since kindergarten.

When her family filed the lawsuit, the school argued Fry would have to go through an administrative process first.

American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan represented Fry. Legal director Michael Steinberg said the next step is taking the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Steinberg said they’ll need to demonstrate that Fry needed the dog so she could be independent at school.

“She needed the service dog to enhance her independence,” he said. “It helped her do things like transfer from her walker to a chair, or to the toilet, it helped pick up dropped pencils, and provide balance for her.”

Attorneys for the school say Fry should not be able to sidestep the administrative process and go straight to court.

The Supreme Court says the school policy preventing Wonder from helping Fry might violate federal disability protection laws. If it does, Fry can go straight to court and not deal with the administrative process.

Steinberg said, “This was truly a victory for individuals with disabilities and I couldn’t be happier.”

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R