In a sweeping decision that should tear down barriers to justice for students with disabilities across the country, the ACLU of Michigan won a unanimous victory in the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Ehlena Fry, a young girl with cerebral palsy who was barred from bringing her service dog to school. Because of her disability, Ehlena needs assistance with many of her daily tasks. Thanks in part to the contributions of parents at Ehlena’s elementary school, Ehlena’s family raised $13,000 to acquire a trained, hypoallergenic service dog named Wonder.

Wonder performed several tasks for Ehlena, assisted her with balance and mobility, and facilitated her independence. Nonetheless, her school district refused to allow Wonder in the school. In 2012 we filed a federal lawsuit. Judge Lawrence Zatkoff dismissed the case, reasoning that the Frys could not bring a lawsuit because they did not first exhaust administrative remedies, and in 2015 the Sixth Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court agreed to hear our appeal, and in 2017 the Supreme Court reversed, ruling 8-0 in favor of Ehlena. The case was then remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.

Judge Sean Cox denied both parties’ motions for summary judgment and referred the case to mediation. The case settled in November 2019.

(Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools; Cooperating Attorney Samuel Bagenstos of U-M Law School; ACLU of Michigan Attorney Michael J. Steinberg; National ACLU Attorneys Susan Mizner and Claudia Center; Cooperating Attorneys Peter Kellett, James Hermon, Jill Wheaton, Ryan VanOver and Brandon Blazo of Dykema, and Gayle Rosen and Denise Heberle.)

Read additional background on Ehlena Fry's case here.


Landmark case