As the new school year is underway, a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year clarifies the use of service animals in K-12 schools. And it’s all thanks to a 13-year-old girl named Ehlena Fry and her service dog Wonder.
In February, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of Ehlena, who was born with cerebral palsy. In 2009, Ehlena’s elementary school prohibited Wonder from accompanying her to class because they felt providing a human aide would suffice. As the school district saw it, providing an assistant meant educators were complying with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
But the Fry family argued that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) required schools to allow Wonder to accompany Ehlena, even though educators provided an assistant.
What it means for schools
The Supreme Court ruling sends a clear message.
“Schools need to treat service animals as a reasonable accommodation to a disability,” said Thom Rickert, vice president and head of marketing at Trident Public Risk Solutions, which provides insurance coverage for public entities such as public schools. “They can no longer assume having a human aide as part of an individualized education renders a service animal superfluous.”
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