Parents Take On School Districts Refusing Service Dogs


Update: On Wednesday, February 22nd, the US Supreme Court sided with Ehlena Fry, the disabled Michigan girl whose school refused to allow her service dog Wonder to be brought to class. The decision, made by the judges between 8 a.m. and midnight, makes it easier for students with special needs to appeal to a federal court for discrimination. The judges sent the case back to a lower court of appeals to determine whether Ehlena’s complaint included the improper refusal of adequate specialized training. Learn more about Ehlena and Wonder in the following article.

Devyn Pereira and Hannah, her service dog, live through their day as one. The nine-year-old strapped to Hannah’s harness is both safe and as independent as possible. When Devyn tries to move, the 110 pound white Bouvier des Flandres sits down and holds the child up with the weight of his body.

Before Hannah entered her life five years ago, the little girl had to be carried or transported to the school bus loop in a wheelchair. Now she is walking next to Hannah. The dog is also trained to detect seizures and alert adults so that medication can be administered.

Devyn was born with Angelman Syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that affects language and mobility, causing developmental delays, autism, and seizures. The Gates Chili Central School District in suburban Rochester, NY allows Hannah to accompany Devyn to school as long as her mother is paying for a dog handler. Heather Pereira’s position is that her daughter is Hannah’s carer and that she requires minimal assistance from school staff (a personal school assistant and nurse are also with Devyn on a daily basis).

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