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Home > Topics > Medical / Clinical
September 10, 2013

NY school district says no to diabetes service dog

The district sent a letter barring the dog because of concerns it would be a distraction, scare other children and aggravate allergies

The Associated Press

HENRIETTA, N.Y. — A diabetic 11-year-old whose family paid $20,000 for a dog trained to sniff out blood sugar swings at school is being tutored at home after the school district refused to allow the service animal in class.

Madyson Siragusa's parents say her dog named Duke is no different than the seeing eye dogs allowed inside public buildings and are pressing the Rush Henrietta Central School District to reconsider.

"We have no idea what changed their mind," Keri Siragusa said of district officials who seemed receptive to the idea when she proposed it before the summer recess. The family sold bracelets, raised funds online and dipped deep into their finances to pay for the yellow Labrador retriever.

But shortly before the start of the new school year, Siragusa said, the suburban Rochester district sent a letter barring the dog because of concerns it would be a distraction, scare other children and aggravate allergies.

Duke arrived with Madyson at Roth Middle School on Friday, only to be turned away.

Administrators said medical consultants advised them the dog wasn't medically necessary. They cited guidance from the New York State Association of School Attorneys, which said districts should decide on a case-by-case basis whether a student can receive "a free appropriate public education" without a dog.

"Our schools are staffed by a school nurse and supported by a district nurse practitioner," a district statement provided to The Associated Press said. "They use long-established, well-tested protocols — including the prudent monitoring of blood glucose levels — to safeguard the health and well-being of students.

"The presence of a service animal trained to monitor these levels is redundant," the statement said.

The animals can supplement school care by detecting highs and lows in between visits to the nurse's office, said Lily Grace, founder and chief executive of the National Institute for Diabetic Alert Dogs, which provided the dog. That's especially important for Madyson, whose Type 1 diabetes makes her prone to rapid fluctuations in her blood sugar levels.

"Within a 10-minute window, this child can go from having a good number to a dangerous number," Grace said.

"Yes, the nurse is there, too. That's a great thing to have," she said from Cottonwood, Calif., where her company is based, "but the more tools the better."

NIDAD has placed about 400 dogs with diabetics in its nine-year history, about a quarter of which attend school, she said. Each dog is trained specifically for the person they are matched with. Madyson's parents collected saliva samples during episodes of high and low blood glucose and sent them to NIDAD, where Duke was trained to alert to the scents the same way police dogs are taught to detect drugs or explosives. Duke paws at Madyson when there is a potential problem.

The Siragusas have been seeking input from doctors familiar with diabetic alert dogs in hopes of convincing the district that the dog is medically necessary. They plan to meet with district officials in the future, though nothing has yet been scheduled.

In the meantime, the district is providing 10 hours of tutoring each week.

Associated PressCopyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

District officials, anticipating legal action, declined to comment beyond the statement.

The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Dominick Walenczak Dominick Walenczak Thursday, September 12, 2013 2:24:21 AM Next phone call from the district will be asking how many zeros to put in the settlement check. Staffed with school nurses... Will the nurse be present by the kid's side at all times to recognize symptoms of hypoglycemia? And are we talking about the same school nurse who locked herself in a closet when a student was having an asthma attack?
Andrew Parker Andrew Parker Thursday, September 12, 2013 3:43:51 AM so I guess they need to tell all of the people that use wheel chairs need to stay away too
Mary Dolan Mary Dolan Thursday, September 12, 2013 7:17:39 AM I have seen students get tested at 8am. Then at 830 become AMS because the Blood Sugar is abnormal. I had a dog for my Ex-husband that informed me that a problem with him was about to happen. And because of the dog that problem was averted. There is no difference. The difference of seconds can change the quality of life for any person. I think that dog should be allowed in the school for that little girl
Jonathan Farrow Jonathan Farrow Thursday, September 12, 2013 8:29:51 AM Andrew Parker Good wheelchairs are very distracting
Ken Smith Ken Smith Thursday, September 12, 2013 10:53:13 AM I would think this goes aginst ADA not to mention just STUPID the dogs are a great tool
Crystal Richmond Crystal Richmond Thursday, September 12, 2013 2:47:42 PM As a former student of this school district I am appalled by this decision. My mother had a service dog and he attended events at the schools with no issues. My family understands how much of a benefit these animals can be, and as a paramedic I have seen the dogs detect patient's symptoms before we can.
Jay Cloud Jay Cloud Thursday, September 12, 2013 3:16:14 PM I continue to be amazed at the stupidity in public education administrators. I guess the young lady having a seizure due to hypoglycemia wouldn't be a distraction, but her dog preventing one would be. I wonder how large their contingency fund is just for the lawsuit alone from this ignorance. Of and there's a little thing called American's with Disability Act. Service dogs are mentioned in it."Under the ADA, State and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go."
Buddy Alton Buddy Alton Thursday, September 12, 2013 5:24:58 PM Unfortunately that word - generally - gives them just enough latitude to remain within the law.
Charles Henke Charles Henke Thursday, September 12, 2013 5:29:54 PM So, a special needs dog isn't allowed into a school that is federally mandated to be ADA compliant. But I guess the rules don't apply here. Dominick is right, Rush Henrietta Central School District is gonna pay for this error in judgement!
Jake Stein Jake Stein Friday, September 13, 2013 10:46:24 PM @Dominick, you never miss a chance to bash nurses regardless of the topic or what forum you are on.
Angela L Troxell Angela L Troxell Monday, October 14, 2013 9:56:49 PM Sad those dogs save lives and are very accurate at alerting.

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