05 November 2016

A Girl And Her Service Dog Head To The Supreme Court

A decision in their case is expected by summer. Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington. Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of ...

and the US Supreme Court today takes up

the case of a girl her service dog and a school that barred the dog from his premises the legal issue in the case is pretty dry but the facts are not as NP R legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg reports Elena fry was born with cerebral palsy a condition that significantly limited her motor skills but not her cognitive skills so when she was 5 her pediatrician recommended her parents get a service dog to help her be more independent family and friends through fundraisers to scrape together the $13,000 needed for the right dog and in 2009 Alina and her parents went to Ohio to train for two weeks with their new golden doodle a cuddly big white pup named wonder the fries had talked to Elena's school about the dog but when she brought wonder to school with her she was told the service dog was not allowed school officials have refused to talk about the case but their legal position is that under the individuals with Disabilities Education Act the district was already paying for an aid to help Lena physically in school and that the dog was unnecessary Elena's parents wanted the dog to be with her so

that she could perform more functions by herself grows stronger and more independent wonder was trained to hit handicap buttons for her to open and close doors to pick up items she dropped and perhaps most important to help her make transfers from a chair to a walker or from a walker to a toilet seat one of our whole goals in getting wonder for her was that eventually the more she was able to use wonder and navigate her environment that she would need the aid less and less that Stacy Frey mother of five including Elena early in their dispute after mediation the school agreed to a 30-day trial but Stacy says the dog was not permitted to sit with Alena in class or go with her to the lunchroom during the trial period there was so much animosity indeed she says that Alena and wonder were required to demonstrate the toilet transfer with adults from the school watching and experienced that Stacy says was devastating and traumatic for her daughter after the 30-day trial the school returned it's no-dog policy although wonder is a hypoallergenic breed the school said among other things that two children and

one teacher were allergic to dogs and that one child had a dog phobia because he had previously been attacked by a dog so the fries homeschooled Alena and then transferred her to another school district where she and Wonder were welcomed with open arms Wonder went to class with Alena and to lunch he was in the staff section of the yearbook he had his own ID card he was in the class picture and says Stacy Frey the relationship between dog and kid was integrated into the school seamlessly it was amazing and they were so accepting and it was such a teaching tool for the other kids the fries eventually sued the old school district under the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal laws they sought unspecified money damages for the emotional distress they say their daughters suffered before the transfer to a new school district Elena's mother says that the suit is not about money but to forge a path for other children with service dogs so that they don't have to have what happened to my daughter happened to their child that is success for us represented by the ACLU the fries want the Supreme Court to declare that when disabled children are

prevented from having qualified service animals at school they and their parents can go directly to federal court but the school district backed by the National School Boards Association argues that to allow such suits could cause school districts millions of dollars they note that six million disabled children are covered by the law that guarantees individualized special ed for disabled children and that law requires that parents exhaust administrative appeals before going to court so far the fries have lost in the lower courts as have parents in most parts of the country but today their case is before the Supreme Court alena will be there with Wonder the golden doodle after seven years of hard mobility work has retired to a pets life alena now 12 is in middle school he helped her bridge that gap working with him helped her learn how to not need him as much a decision in their case is expected by summer Nina Totenberg and News Washington